Going to a baseball game can be one of the most enjoyable times for a sports fan. On a warm summer day or a cool fall night, you can really enjoy the sights and sounds of a baseball game and all it has to offer.
You smell the freshly cut grass, you hear the vendors who each have their own personality belting out to the world that they are carrying some sort of treat you should want, you see the stars that you idolize stretching and jogging in preparation for the game and you really can feel the anticipation in the air.
The umpire yells “play ball!” and the game gets started. Hearing the first pop of a 95 mph fastball hitting the mitt almost gives the avid baseball fan chills as they know they are in for a treat that day.
As the game progresses, there are slight nuances to it that really make it special. Crowds band together in chants for their favorite players ("hip, hip, Jorge!" was one of my favorites) while also starting little mini battles in the stands with supporters of the enemy team.
Fathers wait in line for 30 minutes in order to buy an overpriced hot dog and soda for himself and his son, groups of fans clamor to take any seat that is closer to the action if they are empty and then there is one really special event that can make any baseball game special—catching a foul ball.
First off, with 35,000-plus fans attending most of the games, the chance of this rare event happening is minimal. Also, of the fans that go to a game, many of them are in seats where no ball will ever reach them.
Lastly, when a ball comes into your area, people turn from friendly spectators into forwards at the bottom of a rugby scrum. The battle for the ball can become a show in itself as men, women and children alike disregard human life in order to grasp a miniscule piece of baseball history.
Over the past summer, I was able to partake in such an event. I was back in New York to visit my family in late June and was happy to hear that my father had purchased tickets to a Yankees versus a very good team in the Milwaukee Brewers. Now, my father has never been into sports quite the way I am, but he has been my biggest influence in my life and my sports interests.
It is part of the reason why I like the Jets and Yankees instead of the usual combination of either Jets and Mets or Giants and Yankees. He is the reason that I ever played or enjoyed sports at all, as is the case for many young men. A kid going to a baseball game with his father is something special. It is a time, even as a 23-year-old, that we could really call our own.
The day did not start off too smooth. Even though this trip has been made many times before, we got lost. After calling for someone to look up directions and asking random people on the street the way to get there, we arrived at the Croton-Harmon train station where we had to sprint to make the express train to the Bronx and Yankee Stadium. As we rushed down the steps and jumped into the train, we were relieved to see all of the other Yankee's fans getting ready for the game.
As we arrived at the station in the Bronx, it felt as if nothing had not changed at all. Even with a new stadium, the atmosphere remained the same—both inside and out. Hearing the usual street performers playing their instrument as we made out way to the stadium, kids trying to make money by selling water along the sidewalk and the rush of fans making their way to the stadium just brought back so many good memories.
I was getting really excited as we started to make our way to our seats. We were in the first row of the second deck and right along the first base line. It was the perfect spot to see the whole field and have a chance for some foul balls.
As the sun was setting over the gigantic scoreboard in left center field, the game began. I was quickly worried about the Yankee's chances when, in the top of the first inning, Freddy Garcia struggled. Luckily, he pulled it together and was able to get out of the inning without giving up any runs.
The game continued, and Garcia and the rest of the Yankees looked really spectacular. They were putting up runs in bunches, and Garcia was pitching a gem. My father and I were really enjoying our rare time together, cheering on the team I grew up with. We had some classic baseball hot dogs and a soda as we watched the Yankees take a 7-2 lead into the fifth inning.
The entire game we had been dodging foul balls as they were landing in our area, and we were ready to pounce on any that came our way. Our chance came as right-handed hitter Ryan Braun came to the plate. A few pitches into the at-bat, Braun took a massive hack at a Freddy Garcia pitch and popped the ball high into the night sky toward the first base side of the stadium.
At first, it really did not look like it was going to reach the second deck, but as the ball starting getting closer to our section, we could feel the anticipation around rise as everyone realized we had a chance.
I have not played baseball for a few years now and did not expect the ball to come at us with such velocity. It slipped through a tangle of hands and arms to land right underneath my seat. My father quickly reached under and took hold of the ball. Just like you see many fathers do, he handed me the ball.
I instantly turned 10 years old as I first touched the worn leather on the outside of the baseball. I had never thought that I would actually get a ball at a Major League Baseball game, let alone at Yankee Stadium. This moment was made extra special for me since I was with my role model, the person I respected most in the world...my father.
My excitement and happiness was short lived as I heard a young man, about the same age as me, ask who had caught the ball. He had been drinking and was one of those loud fans that you just want to stay away from. He started heckling me and telling me to give the ball to a young girl that was sitting behind me.
Now let me tell you about the girl. She was very young, probably five or six, she did not have a clue about any of the players on the team (to be expected for such a young girl), but the clincher was that the people she was with were wearing Boston Red Sox gear.
Others started to join in with the inebriated fan, chanting "give the girl the ball, give the girl the ball!" The one young man started to throw around rude comments saying he hoped I got hit in the face with a ball, calling me Paul Bunyan because of my beard, and with each foul ball, he would say "whoever caught that ball probably gave it to a little girl." As a teacher, I am very patient and know that if you just ignore a person like him, his attempt at getting into my head will stop. Unfortunately, it did not.
With our rare father and son night ruined and the Yankees winning by nine runs in the seventh inning, we decided to leave. On our trip back home, I started to question if I should have actually given the girl the ball. She was too young to have control of the people she was with, and if I had given her the ball, I could have made a special moment for her. It could have really helped gain another female sports fan where they are so few and far between.
I also thought about how I would love to give away the ball if it were someone that I went with, or at least a kid who knew anything about the team he was rooting for. Also, if the fans around us were more respectful, I would have felt good about handing the ball to the girl as well.
Being a Yankee fan since I was very little and having my father as the reason for this obsession, the event was a memory that I will never forget. It is unfortunate that my memory will always be infected with the negative comments and chants brought on by a drunken fan.
So, what would you have done? It is easy to say you would have given up the ball in a heartbeat, but just put yourself in the same spot. Cannot wait to hear your feedback!