Baltimore Orioles: Catching The Foul Ball At Camden Yards


What makes baseball unique is you never know what is going to happen on any given night at the ballpark. Each and every night something different happens at the stadium. There is the possibility of seeing a pitcher throw a perfect game or no-hitter. A batter might hit for the cycle. Maybe Chris Davis hits three home runs. More likely, though, he strikes out three more times. 

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Then, there is the fun that happens off the field. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to go to several Baltimore Orioles games know all about the crab shuffle, the hot dog race and a variety things all throughout the ballpark that keep you entertained. You see birthday celebrations. Kiss Cam. Salute to soldiers. While all these things are fun, there is one thing that every baseball fan wants to exit a ballpark with and that is a baseball.

Sitting in Section 228 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Tuesday night, I commented that this section was an ideal spot to catch a ball out of play. Little did I know that a foul ball was coming my way before the first inning was even over.

Manny Machado led off the inning with a four-pitch walk. It was the perfect start to the inning after the Orioles had given up a run in the top half of the first inning. Jimmy Paredes took the first pitch of his at bat for a ball. He swung at the next pitch, the sixth pitch of the game, and my night was made.

Paredes fouls off that pitch, and my instant reaction is to watch the flight of the ball. I saw the ball the entire way, even having enough time to place my beer in the cup holder, just in case. Honestly, I did not think it had enough trajectory to get over the railing into our section. It kept traveling up, however, and the next thing I know is this ball is coming right at me.

It was coming in fast. A few people in the rows above us tried to take a stab at the ball, but for the most part, most of them hit the deck trying to protect themselves. My friend managed to get his hand on the ball first, taking some of the sting off the ball, before I snagged it out of the air with a nifty one-handed grab. I snatched the ball, held it up high, and took my round of applause that seemed to me like I just caught the final out of Game 7 of a World Series.

It might be one of the more memorable moments of my life. This was the first foul ball that I caught, and I have become quite the baseball fan over the past decade. I have had season tickets in Section 82 for five years now, and have never caught a ball in my seats in left field home run territory. I have had a lot of good times in that section, but no balls caught by me or the group of friends I have season tickets with. Prior to Tuesday, the closest I ever was to catching a ball was a few years ago, and will go down as one of the more hilarious moments of my life.

I have a very good friend who is anything but an athlete to say the least. This ball comes right to him and he held his hands up in the air as if he was trying to catch a football. The ball goes right through his hands, bounces off his forehead and ends up in the next section over. To make this story even better, his coworkers saw the whole thing happen, and made it the background for the company computers the following morning. Again, one of the funniest moments of my life.

This time, I got the ball. I wasn’t letting anyone take that thing away from me either. I held it in my hands most of the night. Every time I went to the bathroom, that ball was in my pocket. My friend wanted to see the ball, and I almost did not want to give it up. Then, I was reminded that this was not the first I did take a game ball home from a baseball game.

As a child, I lived in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. for numerous years. I was the first American-born child to come from an Italian family that are not exactly baseball fans. Soccer was the number one sport in our house. That did not stop them from taking us to baseball games as kids. We lived not far away from Lackawanna County Stadium which was home to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, the Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A affiliate from 1989 to 2006.

We went to a handful of games, and my mother dreaded them. She did not (and still does not) understand the game, and my dad trying to explain it to her is a whole story in itself. She would doze off in her seat, and my brother and I would run around trying to catch every foul ball that came near our way. Baseball games were dad’s turn to watch the kids. The concern in all this that foul balls can be dangerous, and my mom was oblivious to what was happening.

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The ball comes off the bat, and right away I could tell it was heading towards us. I am a few sections over from where my mother is sitting. She has no idea that the ball is coming her way. It is a high pop up and I remember watching the ball starting to come down, thinking that mom was about to get a nice bump on her head. Instead, the ball lands right in her purse and doesn’t move.

Until this day, we talk about that moment. Mom was a sitting duck asking for a headache, and by the luck of a few inches, she was safe with a ball as a souvenir. There was no bounce. No scramble to find the ball. It landed perfectly in that purse and basically stayed there until we got home. Every time we talk about baseball, the story gets brought up.

What made Tuesday night special was the fact that it was a Major League game. Paredes has been swinging a hot ball as of late, and even hit a home run later in the game. It was also the return of Nelson Cruz to Baltimore, and the Orioles battling back to win made the night perfect. Not bad for a last minute decision to go to the game. It is a reminder of why we love this sport.

It is the only sport where you can get a game used ball for free. The odds of catching a foul ball in a game are minimal. I’ve been going to baseball games regularly over the past decade and this is the first ball that has even touched my hand. It is not easy, but when it does happen, it is a pretty cool moment. That is what makes baseball America’s favorite past time.

Not to be greedy, but I hope to take home a few more baseballs before my life is all said and done.

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