For the first 25 years of my life, my ball total had been stuck at one number, ZERO. I had gone to baseball games with my dad for as long as I can remember (we moved to a suburb of Minneapolis in 1987, so right around that time, I suppose). I have kept a fair amount of my ticket stubs, and can trace it back to 1990, but the number of tickets missing to time is probably more than what was kept for much of the early and mid-90s. Back in those days they still had knothole games, where parents could bring their little ones (under a certain age) to games for free. I KNOW that my dad took advantage of this on numerous occasions, and as soon as I saw the game, I was hooked.
When a kid first sees baseball they will either LOVE it or get bored with it within 1 inning. I like to think that I was totally in to the game, but I do not know the answer, as I do not remember my first game vividly. What I do remember from a very young age is:
1. I wanted to be like Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Scott Erickson, Robin Ventura (my all-time favorite, and yes, never a Twin), or even just another nameless former Twin that got to say he played in the bigs. I WANTED TO BE ON A TOPPS BASEBALL CARD!!
2. I knew I couldn’t be a Twin for many more years, so in the meantime, I wanted to take a part of the game home with me, to keep forever. I WANTED A BASEBALL!! not just any baseball, not one that you can buy at a store or even at the stadium; I wanted an officially licensed MLB touched/pitched/hit by a pro.
Now, I wasn’t aware how things worked at games, that they had this thing called batting practice, probably because my dad was either working, or didn’t want to take up 6 hours watching baseball with a grade-schooler that was also a huge fan of such things as Pixie-Stix, Sweet-Tarts, really, anything with sugar. I was not a monster, but it’s less than optimal for most fathers. He still showed me how to care for the game and cheer for the home-team, but I never knew the amount of “work” it took to get a ball.
The one time that I can remember (though the exacts are fuzzy at best) that we were close to getting a ball was when one was heading straight towards us, but a guy 1 or two rows back, one with long arms, snagged it at the last second. I was no more than 10 at the time (and more than likely under 7), so the fact that this feeling of being so close is still etched into my mind should tell you something… I WANTED THAT BALL!!
As I stated earlier, my drought lasted a while. Even though I had gone to at least 1 game a year since before I was in kindergarten, I had the same amount of balls as when I was born, two (neither of which is officially licensed by the MLB… and much smaller). That was about to change with the help of an unlikely hero… My wife.
Now that I was on my own and could go to games at the time of my choosing, I wanted to end this drought once and for all. I believe that this was also the first baseball game that my wife attended together as husband and wife, so that was also pretty cool. She, being a swimmer and soccer player, was never well-versed in baseball, and therefore finds the game a bit slow and boring. Being the good sport that she is (and was) I was able to sway her into going to batting practice before the game. I had also told her about how much I wanted a ball and the whole back story on my quest for an officially licensed MLB.
I was really jacked up and super stoked on the way to the Metrodome, only to realize in the parking lot that I had forgotten my glove at the apartment. I knew that in doing so my chances were significantly less, but I tried to tell myself, “I’m not a professional ball-getter, I don’t need to be ‘that guy’ with a glove at the game.” But those were all lies in order to decrease my hopes and try to not be too set on getting a ball that day.
The Blue Jays were in town for a series, and it was the Dome, so I knew that there would be plenty of homers in BP. I was not prepared for not seeing the Twins portion (as they hit first), nor did I understand that there were such things as toss-ups; so I focused on getting a ball the old-fashion way, in the left-field seats via home run balls… using my green Twins hat as my glove.
After about a half an hour of going cold, I was starting to feel like today wasn’t my day. I was not staying in one place, I wandered around only to have balls land where I would have been. I didn’t stay in an aisle, and I was much further back than the rest (for fear I would get in others’ way). but finally one was hit that I read perfectly. I mean, I HAD to read this perfectly, it was coming straight at me, the best kind!! I have my green hat ready, slightly away from my chest, but open in hopes that the ball would land nicely like a scoop of ice cream in a really big cone.
HERE IT COMES!!…
Into my hat!!… and then my hat was immediately ripped from my hands, as gravity and momentum tried playing the most awful trick to a 25 year old who was totally in an 8 year old state of enjoyment. the ball, stuck in my hat, knocks to the stairs and jumps out of my hat quicker than one beat of my racing heart, and I watch it head for a few rows up from where I was. I was shocked, stunned that my hat plan had backfired; plus I had to pick up my hat. Then, as if destiny was weaving the ultimate redemption story, I noticed that the seat MY BALL was heading for (in my mind it belonged to me, though others were racing for it) was the seat directly in front of my wife!!
I looked at her (and maybe shouted, “Get it!”, who knows, it’s all a blur) and she stabbed her hand in the seat half a second before the nearest ball-vulture (I would later come to understand the correct lingo is ballhawk) could get their undeserving hands around it. Since it was buried in the seat, and 3+ hands were grabbing for it, and I was lower than the seats and ball, I panicked a little. I thought for sure that it was just like when I was a young kid, a longer/more quick arm had bested my attempts at an officially licensed MLB ball.
…But my wife totally redeemed me!! She come sup with it, as I show a large smile on my face, followed by a quick jolt of panic. Crap! Did I even get a ball?! She got the ball, it’s not my ball, even though I tried so hard and did some work, it’s not MY ball, is it?!
My wife could tell how much it meant to me, she said it was ours and even referred to it as mine a few times; but then again, she also refers to it as hers and rubs it in my face that she technically was the rightful receiver of said “first ball.” Though we both agree, what’s ours is ours, we are married now, so we both get to say it’s our ball, and we now have one more story to tell together.
Here it is,
my our first ball!!
I mentioned it above, my wife is not a huge fan of baseball, but I am lucky enough to get to go to a few games a year with her. She does enjoy the luxury seats and going to new parks, so she is not a TOTAL hater. She has told me, though, that under (nearly) no circumstances will she try to catch another baseball with/for me. Fair play!