YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollectionsHelmet

Catching flies


June 22, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

As I sat baking like a potato during Sunday's Padres-Mariners game, it occurred to me I'd never caught a ball at a game.

I'm sure most of you are thinking there is nothing extraordinary about that. Many people go to games their entire lives and never even see a ball come their way. In fact, my father, who has been to many more baseball games than I, told me he has never even come close to catching a ball at a game. While all these points might act as consolation to some, they are simply excuses to me. You see, I was born to catch a ball at a Major League Baseball game.

All right, perhaps that's a little too dramatic. I will, however, relate to you a story about one of the first games I attended. It was at the old Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the Rangers were taking on the Blue Jays. My parents had gone to Oregon and left me in the care of my crazy bachelor uncle, who after teaching me about heavy metal music and the magazine with the same title, decided it would be some good fun if we would go to the old ballpark and take in a game.


I remember we got to the game sort of late, which struck me as odd. You see, my father has never been late to anything in his life, thus at the tender age of 10 I was hardly used to tardiness. Well, I think our late arrival forced us into the cheap seats in left field (either the late arrival or perhaps my uncle didn't want to spend the big bucks on the expensive seats).

Who knows, and you know what? It doesn't really matter. Our seats in left field suited me just fine, and after purchasing a plastic Red Sox batting helmet and a Red Sox magnet that (much to the dismay of my lovely wife, Kelly) adorns our apartment's refrigerator to this day, we settled in to watch the rest of the contest.

I don't remember much more about that game. Well, not much more than what happened in the eighth inning. It was in that inning that I came as close as I've ever come to claiming my birthright. As I sat looking at my helmet and wondering what had happened to my Cracker Jack prize I heard a mighty crack. When I looked up I could see a small white object rocketing toward where my uncle and I were sitting.

As it came closer my heart began to race and with a little prodding from my uncle, I jumped up and ran down the two stairs toward the rail. The ball, a bomb hit by Ranger catcher Jim Sundberg, got to the spot at almost the same time I did, which would have been great except when I got there I didn't really know what to do.

Should I catch it with my bare hands? Hmm, that would hurt. Maybe try to scoop it with my plastic helmet? No, that would probably splinter my beautiful new piece of headgear and I certainly didn't want that.

So what did I do? Well, I stood there and watched as the ball landed about two feet in front of me. It hit the concrete with a noise similar to the one it made when it left Sundberg's bat and then it bounced. Man, did it ever bounce. Like the old rubber balls you got for 25 cents from gumball machines, the ball bounced over my curly head and went flying about 10 rows behind me. When I turned I saw a man fighting with a couple of other people for the ball. I think in the end he got it. To this day I'm not sure if I even care.

That's as close as I've ever come to catching a ball. During a game in Candlestick a drive by Howard Johnson was caught by some guys a couple of rows in front of us. Last year while watching the Red Sox play the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington my friend and I sat in the section known as home run alley and watched as plenty of balls landed around us during batting practice, but we were not fortunate to catch one ourselves.

After 20 years of trying I am still in search of this elusive gem. At least I know next time I get the chance to catch a ball I will have some idea about what to do.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles