I always hoped that if I went to enough Pirates games, that eventually I would catch a foul ball. I’ve been getting to about 10 or so games a season the last couple of years, mostly sitting in the same section - so come onnnnnnnn probability.
The trouble is, where we sit, you don’t get the lazy pop fouls where everybody hugs together and waits for the ball to descent back to earth. No, the only baseballs that get into our section are screaming death lasers of hatred - the kind when a right-handed batter gets just enough of a 94 mph fastball to redirect it around the safety screen.
By the top of the 3rd inning yesterday, there still wasn’t anyone seated in the 4 seats to my left. Further down the row, there was a group of fairly quiet Cubs fans. Castro fouled off a 1-0 fastball, and when Burnett threw the fastball again on 1-1, Castro was still late on it. He reached out and just tipped it - sending the asteroid from Armageddon screeching up into my row. I guess Bruce Willis didn’t hit his depth because the baseball made it all the way to the seat three to my left.
The Cubs fan closest to me was elbow-deep in a sandwich, so as the ball hit the seat, fell to the ground, and started to roll, he had to take care of his sandwich before reaching down. The ball was definitely still closer to him when I lunged for it, but I got there first. I grabbed it and looked right into the dude’s eyes and said “Let’s go Bucs!”.
I expected him to give an aw, shucks half smile of disappointment - but he actually looked super-pissed about it. I instantly felt terrible about saying that cheesy line, or that maybe since the ball was closer to him, that he was somehow entitled to to it. Did I break the foul ball code? I wish that there was a printed version, so I could have been prepared for this moment. I’d like to think that if the ball had hit him in the face and he was being carted away by EMTs, I’d have gently placed the ball in his hand and whispered softly to him “you earned this”. And, of course, if he was a kid, he definitely should have the ball.
For about 2 innings I agonized over the whole situation (as a super self-conscious person would). It was made worse by all the attention you get as the recipient of a foul ball.
"OH MAN! Did you see that ball? That guy got it! THAT GUY RIGHT THERE THAT I’M POINTING AT"
"Hey buddy! Hold up that ball so I can get a picture of it! HOLD IT UP HIGHER"
I thought that any minute the murmur of the crowd would turn against me.
"I can’t believe that jerk took that Cubs fans’ ball. He was holding a SANDWICH. It just isn’t right.”
Right around Burnett’s tenth strikeout, I got over myself. When it’s two grown men going after a free toy at a child’s game, there are no rules.