In pursuit of a baseball, the real fun is in the chase

When I came across this article recently, the prevailing feeling was jealousy. This guy has caught 81 home run balls during big league games over the years. Over the years, before I began to work in the media and more than a few years ago, I attended hundreds and hundreds of games. My home run caught count is zero.

Yep, only 81 behind and my days in the stands hoping to catch a homer are pretty much over.

I think there are stories out there of fans claiming to have caught thousands of baseballs over the years. Seems pretty unlikely to me, but OK fine. I’m still looking for No. 1.

It was not for a lack of trying. Growing up in Baltimore County in the 1970s, I can’t remember or count how many Orioles games I attended as a fan, and most of the time, we went early to enter right when the gates opened to rush into the left field bleachers and try and catch home runs during batting practice at Memorial Stadium.

toronto-baseballs.jpgWhile others claim to have done this and come up with a dozen or more balls over the years, I got shut out. How is that possible? All these later I still wonder. Zero? Really? Yep, it’s true. Heck, I don’t remember coming close to getting a ball save for one time and this was during a game.

I can’t recall the year, but it had to be between 1970 and 1976, because I do recall that Bobby Grich hit a foul ball right to me. I was in the first row in Section 40 at Memorial Stadium, just to the right of the plate looking at the field. Grich hit it - and I dropped it. But not at my feel, so I could just bend over and pick it up. I had to reach up for the ball, it hit off my hands and went into the row behind me. So some guy bent over and had the ball. Can of corn, piece of cake. I took all of the steam out of it and had the pain in my hands to show for it. Here you go, buddy, enjoy!

My excuse was that a hard rain had just started and the ball was wet. That is what I have told myself all these years anyway and it was indeed raining. As I remember it, a rain delay was called just a pitch, two or three after my misplay. After my best career chance to get a ball that I muffed. I blew it.

Not that is still bothers me or anything.

So as I look back now, years and years later, it still surprises me that I never got one baseball. Not in a game or in batting practice. Not one, ever. A career o-fer.

On the other hand, I have the memories of trying and I can still remember the feeling of anticipation and excitement as young me ran up the ramp at Memorial Stadium. The excitement of seeing all that green grass and that field that was always a beautiful sight to these eyes. Always.

Had they opened the gates four hours before the game and not, I believe, 90 minutes before first pitch, I would have been there then. The sooner, the better. The sooner I could get into Memorial Stadium, which felt like home to me, the better.

The anticipation for the chase in batting practice was just as strong as that for the game. It was just cool and I couldn’t wait. It never got old.

It must have been fun, because while I can’t remember what I had for lunch this week, I can recall some of those afternoons chasing baseballs at Memorial Stadium.

The guy from the article was featured as well in this YouTube video.

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