I have caught two baseballs at a ballpark in my life

Regarding the infamous foul ball couple from Texas (Sean Leonard and Shannon Moore) and the attention that my post on that topic got, let me demonstrate what you are supposed to do when you get a batted ball at the ballpark.

I have caught two baseball at a ballpark in my life.

The first one was at Shea Stadium in 1993.

The Mets were rotten that year. The infamous “Worst Team That Money Can Buy” club. They lost 103 games and did so with no class and (for that time) an outrageously high payroll.

So that summer when I was in New York preparing for my senior year at NYU, I went to a game and good seats were available.

I was there for batting practice and a foul ball came right to me. I went up to the aisle and caught it (there wasn’t a lot of competition.)

I held up the ball for all to see.

I then looked up and saw there was a dad and his son walking toward my aisle getting ready to find their seat.

I ran up and handed the ball to the little boy. (That’s the boy and the dad below..)

He was about 4 or 5 then. He’s probably about 23 or 24 years old now. And I bet he remembers getting a ball at a Mets game when he was a kid.

That ball meant more to that kid than it would have to me. And I KNOW the father was thrilled when I gave it to him. He gave me his address and asked for me to mail a copy of the picture. (That was PRE digital picture days. You actually had to mail prints back then.)

The only other time I got a ball?

It was 2008 and I went to a game at San Jose Municipal Stadium to see the Single A SJ Giants play the Modesto Nuts.

I took my twin sons to the game, which was their first professional game.

They barely could tell what was happening in the game.

But at one point a ball came our way.

I got it and handed it to my son Aidan.

He asked me where I got it from and I told him it was one of the balls the players were using.

Aidan then got upset and said “It’s the PLAYERS ball. Not OUR ball. You told us that if we found something that doesn’t belong to us, we should give it back!”

It took a while to explain that a foul ball into the stands was an exception.

My other son, Matty, had no such problem. In the picture above, Matty is holding onto the ball while Aidan is looking into the field, trying to figure out which player the ball actually belongs to.

Either way, the point is, you catch a ball, you give it to a kid.

The kid will be happier to have the ball and you have a better story to tell.

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Gut check time in Tampa Bay

When I made my predictions for the 2012 season, I marked Evan Longoria as the American League MVP.

My reasons?
I felt the Rays were going to win the Division because of their pitching and Longoria was probably going to be their offensive star. And using the “Who is the best hitter on a Division Winner?” logic, Longoria would take the prize.

And as predicted, the Rays solid starting pitching and new closer Fernando Rodney has shot Tampa Bay to the top of the standings. And Longoria with his 19 RBI and .994 OPS has been the offensive star.

 Well, now Longoria is going to miss 1 or 2 months because of a hamstring injury. His replacement Elliot Johnson drove in the winning run the other day and the Rays won again tonight. But they aren’t going to be playing the Mariners for the rest of the season.

They have a Yankee series coming up and as I wrote earlier, the games between the Yankees and Rays are all important. If they were important in April then they are meaningful in May as well.

A slumping Rays team and some head to head wins could be exactly what the Yankees and their bad rotation but good bullpen could need to pull ahead. (Sorry Baltimore and Toronto, I will think of you as contenders when I see it.)

Someone needs to step up for the Rays in the lineup and in the infield.

B. J. Upton has been starting to hit the ball. It would help the team if he finally blossomed into the MVP candidate he is supposed to be.

Hideki Matsui could return and give the team a spark.

Instead of banking on former Yankee heroes (isn’t that the Yankee strategy?) it would be nice for Tampa if former Number 1 pick over all, Tim Beckham, would be ready finally for his close up in the big leagues and maybe give the team a spark at shortstop.

Instead he’s slumping at Triple A Durham and, oh yeah, is suspended 50 games for a failed drug test. (What is it with Tampa’s former #1 picks overall and drug problems?)

So the Rays need to show resolve.
They have more problems with Longoria than tracking down who stole his hat.

If they can weather this, then Joe Maddon IS the best manager in baseball.

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