By: Ben Bauer, Stadium Operations Assistant
In my 20 years of existence, I have been to countless baseball games ranging from Single A Minor League up through the Major Leagues. Whether it is my glove or a hat, I am always standing at the ready to catch a foul ball. I chase after them, diving under seats or sprinting through crowds, just to grab that shiny, white ball that a Professional hit. In all these games, in all these years, I have still yet to nab a foul ball. Not a Single One.
Let’s begin when I was young, maybe seven or eight years old. My entire family was vacationing in Denver, N.C. and decided to go to a baseball game. We headed out to the only team home at the time, the Charlotte Knights. I had my hat on, my shoes tight, and most importantly my glove snug in my hand. I had a good feeling that night may be my chance. After about six innings or so of nothing, my dad and I decided to grab a quick refreshment from the concession stand. On our way back we stopped to watch a single swing from behind home plate, since we were out past first base. The pitcher pitched, and the batter popped it up. It went soaring, and then I realized where it was heading: right to the seats of my family, more specifically MY seat. I rushed back, but by the time I got there, my Uncle had already claimed the ball as his own. I had the right seat chosen, just missed it by a hotdog (and not even a Jumbo Dog like at LP Frans).
Fast-forward two years to another family vacation down on Lake Norman. The weather was beautiful, so what better way to spend the night than at a Hickory Crawdads baseball game. This time we went to the third base side, since that was where the home team dugout lied. I had my seat picked and my glove was ready to be put into use. After another six innings, we had some relatively close balls, but no legitimate opportunities. My dad asked if I wanted to get a bite to eat, but I wasn’t falling for that again, so I waited till the seventh inning stretch to go up. I figured I could get up and back without missing more than a batter or two and I was right. I missed only one batter. I was happy walking back knowing I didn’t miss anything, at least so I thought. To my surprise, I came back and saw my cousin’s pants soaked from her drink and a ball in her hand. It couldn’t be. Not again! The ball had bounced in my exact seat before hitting my cousin’s drink and finding its way into her hands. I had missed my chance AGAIN!
Add in a couple Reds and Indians games to the loser list for foul balls and move ahead to my current position: Stadium Operations Intern with the Hickory Crawdads a.k.a. Lead Burger Wrapper. I was so excited to begin working for an actual Professional Baseball team, and then I realized I would be in foul ball heaven. There would be balls bouncing all around, so surely I could snag one. Unfortunately I soon came to realize while reading the intern handbook, and I quote, “Employees may never chase or pick up baseballs”. Well so much for that idea. Not that I would steal a ball from a fan, but if it happened to land in my hand and I happened to hide it quickly, what’s the harm?
As I was enjoying my time working for the Crawdads, despite an unfortunate policy, I noticed a sheet with my name under Batting Practice duties. I thought to myself: this could be it. Even though it’s not a foul ball, a home run ball would be way better. So that day I sat on the warning track watching the balls soar over the fence. I waited for a few and then rounded them up. JACKPOT! Only I soon realized that these balls were not all shiny and clearly used multiple times. Then I looked up and saw a player staring at me, clearly waiting for me to throw the balls back in. Another chance missed and another opportunity squandered.
So here I sit looking at a pair of Columbus Clippers tickets marked Row 1 down the first base line dated late August. I figure if I can’t catch one, maybe one will roll up to me in my inaugural first row appearance at a sports game. I will surely bring my glove and will be patiently waiting every swing of the bat for that first foul ball because as of now I have yet to catch one. Not a Single One.