The thrill of snag­ging a once-in-a-life­time ‘can of corn’

North Penn Life - - ACCENT -

When he went to the ball­park, my dad was a mag­net for base­balls. So much so that as a kid, ev­ery time pop went to a game, I expected him to bring me home a sou­venir ball.

A PLGGOH Ln­fiHOGHU DnG cap­tain of his col­lege base­ball team at Illi­nois State rniver­sity in the early 1950s, he had good hands. I saw him snag three base­balls dur­ing bat­ting prac­tice at Busch Sta­dium in St. Louis once in the late 1960s, all bare-handed. At Three Rivers Sta­dium in Pitts­burgh in the early 1970s, we were sit­ting be­hind home plate and un­der the net­ting when a foul ball hit by Pi­rates third base­ball Richie Heb­ner rolled up and through a hole in the net­ting and dropped right into an empty seat next to Dad. He reached over and scooped it up.

And in 1972, I ac­tu­ally saw my dad catch a ball on Ts dur­ing a game be­tween the Cubs and the Car­di­nals in St. Louis. Cubs Hall of Fame third base­man Ron Santo hit a long drive down the left­fiHOG OLnH WKDW KDG KRPH Uun dis­tance but had hooked foul at the last mo­ment. The cam­era panned in on the crowd as Cubs Hall of Fame broad­caster Jack Brick­house said, “Hey, nice catch by a fan.” There was my dad in a white t-shirt, cigar hang­ing out of his mouth, hold­ing up the base­ball. lnce again, he had made a bare-handed catch.

Forty years later, it was my turn. Af­ter sit­ting through hun­dreds of base­ball games Ln Py OLIH, , finDOOy JRW D chance to make a play dur­ing a game.

And it al­most didn’t hap­pen.

A pre­vi­ous com­mit­ment on the same evening had forced me to look for some­one to take my tick­ets for the Sept. 11 game be­tween the Phillies and the Miami Mar­lins. But I couldn’t get rid of the tick­ets in ad­vance and was go­ing to have to eat them.

About 4:20 p.m. on game day, The Blonde Ac­coun­tant texted me that our plans had changed and that I should just go to the game. Ap­pre­cia­tive of get­ting last-minute clear­ance from the tower, I rushed home to change clothes, grab my gear and head to the park. It was much too late to ask any­one to go with me.

Ev­ery­body who knows me knows that I re­ally geek it up at a game: I have my glove, my note­book and score­card, pen­cils, pens, ra­dio and red high-top Chuck Tay­lor shoes to go along with my Phillies shirt and hat. I have no prob­lem at all turn­ing back into a 10-year-old kid when I’m at the ball­park.

And I’ve been sit­ting in that same aisle seat — Sec­tion 105, Row 11, seats 1 and 2 — for nine sea­sons, ever since the ball­park opened in 2004. Never once has a home run ball come at me while I’m sit­ting there. (But when I’m home watch­ing on Ts, ev­ery home Uun WR ULJKW­fiHOG DS­pears to land right in my seat.)

So here was the sce­nario: Sixth in­ning, man on, Phillies up 6-3 and Jimmy Rollins at the plate. He hits a foul pop-up be­hind home plate, which Mar­lins rookie catcher Rob Brantly dropped. diven new life, on the very next pitch, Jimmy slammed a long drive . . . and it was com­ing right at me!

In sit­u­a­tions like this, there’s likely a lit­tle luck in­volved. Since no­body was with me, seat two in my row was empty. For­tu­nately, there was no­body sit­ting in seats three and four ei­ther. As the home run sailed to­ward me, I slid to my left — es­sen­tially three steps — stuck up my glove and made the play. It was in base­ball par­lance, “a FDn RI FRUn.” (An HDVy fly ball.) But if there was any­one in the three seats to my left, I wouldn’t have got­ten a chance to make the play.

And then . . . ab­so­lute pan­de­mo­nium. Not just by me, but by ev­ery­one in my sec­tion. Peo­ple were hug­ging me and slap­ping me on the back and KLJK-fiYLnJ. 7KH guy who sits across the aisle from me to my right — who had slid down to the left as I did and was on my right hip when I made the play — was jump­ing up and down and hug­ging me so much I thought he was gonna kiss me. (It was ex­cit­ing enough that I prob­a­bly would have been lK with that given the cir­cum­stances.)

When my hands stopped shak­ing a bit, I texted my brother in Illi­nois about what had hap­pened.

“Tell me you caught it bare­handed and not with a glove,” he texted back.

“dlove. Al­ways glove,” I re­sponded.

“Dad would have been ashamed. Bare hands only at a ball­game! vou should know bet­ter!” he wrote.

Ah, horse­feath­ers. Dad would have said, “Did you get the ball?” If any­thing, Dad would have cared more about

the if the play was made suc­cess­fully, not how it was made.

The Phillies have a pro­mo­tion called “Home­town Homers,” which al­lows those in the stands who catch a Phillies home run to have it signed by the player who hit it. It’s quite a nice touch by the ball­club to put an ex­cla­ma­tion point on the ex­pe­ri­ence.

A few min­utes af­ter the ex­cite­ment had sub­sided, an usher came over and es­corted me to guest ser­vices, wKHUH , fiOOHG RuW VRPH SDper­work and put the ball in a big, padded en­ve­lope. It would be sent to the locker room for Jimmy to sign and then be mailed back to me.

As a col­lec­tor who had waited a long time for an op­por­tu­nity like this, I wasn’t ex­actly crazy about turn­ing the ball over to any­body. But three days later I re­ceived the ball back signed by Jimmy. sery cool.

I wish my pop was still around to hear this story. He would have got­ten a kick out of it.

Be­cause just for a mo­ment, I got to be that 10-year-old kid again.

Mike Morsch is ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of Mont­gomery Me­dia and au­thor of the book, “Danc­ing in My Un­der­wear: The Sound­track of My Life.” He can be reached by call­ing 215542-0200, ext. 415 or by email at msquared35@ya­hoo.com.

Here is the score­card, ticket and Jimmy Rollins au­to­graphed home run ball from the Sept. 11, 2012, game against the Miami Mar­lins.

Outta Left­field Mike Morsch

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