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Foul Balls

Exactly five years ago today, the Spencers were on a west coast pilgrimage. My lovely sister and ‘rents now live in West Hollywood, California. We found ourselves in the nosebleed seats of Dodgers Stadium. I guess you can say it was the usual MLB afternoon matinee. Slow, hot, somewhat crowded with stale peanuts and overpriced

Exactly five years ago today, the Spencers were on a west coast pilgrimage. My lovely sister and ‘rents now live in West Hollywood, California. We found ourselves in the nosebleed seats of Dodgers Stadium. I guess you can say it was the usual MLB afternoon matinee. Slow, hot, somewhat crowded with stale peanuts and overpriced domestics. $14 for a draft of PBR? Good lord.

Of course, my then 7-year-old son had to buy some gear. Jensen went on a major shopping spree. He decided to go with a Dodgers’ t-shirt, a matching hat, logo baseball, and a mini bat. I never knew he was such a fan. Thankfully, Grandpa Jim was there to pick up the hefty tab. We both like baseball but rarely follow MLB, and we didn’t know or recognize any players on either team. There was a time when I could name every starter on every squad, but those days of collecting cards are long gone.

Hang in there, folks. You will see my transition here shortly.

Like everyone else in the stands that afternoon, Jensen and I were hoping to bring home a special souvenir. It’s what you do, but our seats, unfortunately, didn’t give us the best opportunity for a foul ball. We were approximately 400 feet above the Dodgers’ dugout on the third baseline — just a tad out of range. No way. No chance. It’s not possible.

Chase Utley came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth. The lead-off left-handed second baseman was behind in the count. He then swung at a high fastball and… OMG. HERE IT COMES. This ball was, incredibly, headed in our direction. It continued to climb, and everyone in Section 141 was now doing the wave. HEADS UP, FOLKS. I don’t remember every detail, but I can still feel that dang ball smacking OFF the palm of my outstretched hand. Did you catch it? NO. BUT IT JUST HIT MY PALM. A once in a lifetime opportunity, and I absolutely blew it. E on the four-eyed forty-year-old from North Central Pennsylvania.

Everyone whispered and booed. There were rumors that my mishap was even captured on the Jumbotron above center field. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. People in Dodgers Stadium were pointing their fingers and laughing. The ball ended up with some lucky fella a few rows below. I didn’t see what happened after the impact, but I asked him if I could borrow the ball. My hand was still throbbing, and I took a quick pic but had a very hard time giving it back to this lucky fan. He was smiling ear to ear and posting pictures on Instagram. I was crushed. It should have been me. Jensen was crying. WHY DIDN’T YOU USE TWO HANDS, DAD?

Last Saturday, I found myself in a very similar situation. Only this time, I was in Beech Creek, Pennsylvania, and not Dodger Stadium. Jensen and his friends from Hepburn Lycoming Little League played Jersey Shore in the District 12 Major Boys Semis. Yes. We drove 45 miles to hang out with our neighbors. Coach Marc Hess was in a jam, and he needed some love. Each team is to provide someone to help keep the score. No. I did not volunteer. I simply got beat in Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Since Hepburn was the visiting squad, I was asked to count some pitches. Sounds pretty simple right? Ha. You try it. I had to sign a waiver and promised that I wouldn’t coach or cheer from the box. Man, it was hot. Ninety-five degrees, and the AC didn’t work. Imagine that. I was handed a sheet of paper, and when every pitch was thrown, I would X out a number. District 12 let me use a mechanical pencil, but it quickly malfunctioned. I knew the Umpires from hoops, and they both wondered why I was so quiet. I talked to no one.

I had the best seat in the house as I sat high above — a bird’s eye view of all of the action. I was behind home plate. Sweating my tail. The large bay window was open, but there was no wind. I think it was the bottom of the 4th inning. My brain was fried because I was concentrating. There was a lazy pop fly. The catcher looked up, and it was just out of his reach. I didn’t think much, and I recorded a strike. Suddenly the foul ball came out of nowhere and smacked me in the arm. I played it off like it was nothing, but I was holding back my frown. HOW IN THE HELL DID THIS FOUL BALL GIVE ME A BRUISE? Everyone in the booth was laughing — even the home plate ump. I didn’t see it happen, but the ball must have ricocheted off the roof. Unbelievable. I don’t think you could ever duplicate. I got hit by a foul ball that somehow went through the fence while I was counting pitches.

There is a cardinal rule in Little League that you RETURN ALL FOUL BALLS TO THE NEAREST DUGOUT. But I decided to keep mine as a souvenir. It serves as a great reminder, and it is now displayed in my son’s sock drawer — best wishes to all of the teams. Go Hepburn. Cheers.

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