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July 19, 2002

by Bill Hogan



It took three and a half months, but we finally made it out to a ballgame. There were seven of us and the final tally for the evening's festivities was right around five hundred dollars – but I won't dwell on that.

We were able to get great seats at the last minute - behind the third base dugout at field level – one of the perks of rooting for a bad team.


The weather was 3-H (hazy, hot and humid) but it didn't really seem to bother anyone. We all took along sweatshirts just in case. I don't exactly know why we all toted sweatshirts into the ballpark – just in case the temperature dipped below eighty, I guess. Come to think of it, I've never been to a baseball game in mid-July when I actually needed a sweatshirt.

And I remembered to bring my glasses this time so I could actually see the action on the field and not just fuzzy images of what looks like baseball being played but may as well be a friendly weekend cricket match.

If I want to be totally honest with myself, I made sure I brought my glasses so I would be able to pick up any foul balls that may head in the direction of our seats. I think it's every man's dream to catch a foul ball and hand it to his kid. The problem is that it isn't as easy as it seems.

One of my favorite ballpark activities is watching the crowd during what I call the 'foul ball follies'. A hit ball that leaves the playing area can create some of the most entertaining (and frustrating) moments of the night.

The night's first folly occurred when a man stood up, maneuvered under a foul ball and readied himself to make the catch with one hand. The man was holding a small child in the other hand. It became apparent early on that nothing good was going to come out of this situation. Naturally, the ball caromed off his hand. The only question was in which direction would it be deflected. Toward the toddler, or away. Luckily it was the latter.

Which led to the night's second folly. The chase was on for the downed baseball that was now bouncing around under the seats. A man emerged from the scramble with an empty mustard packet stuck to his knee and proudly held to ball skyward. He had triumphantly wrestled it away from a teenage girl and a small boy.

The scenario leaves us with two lessons to remember in order to avoid taking part in a 'foul ball folly': Never try to catch the ball on a fly with one hand while holding a baby. And never get involved in an under the seat scramble with children. There's no upside. If your retrieval mission is successful then you've just taken a souvenir away from a child – you're a boob. If you fail, and the eight-year-old comes up with the ball – you're a boob. It's a lose-lose situation.

Then there's the most dangerous 'foul ball folly'. That's when a screaming line drive comes your way. You stand up and so does the guy in front of you. He's in position to make the play and you assume he will. At the last second he realizes that the ball is probably going to break a hand bone or two but by now you're watching him instead of the ball. He drops his hands and ducks and you get tagged with a big-league line drive.

The chase is on for the bouncing ball while you take inventory of all your moving parts. The guy in front is a boob for ducking, and you're a boob for taking one to the ribcage.

This is the kind of stuff one can only appreciate from the stands. For me, it's really easy to let a whole inning slip by while I observe the aftermath of a 'foul ball folly'.

On this night, my team won. But I have to admit I left the stadium a little disappointed that I didn't get the chance to make a play on a foul ball. Of course the odds are that I would have made a boob out of myself.


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