Day Eighteen: Batting Practice

Age: Day 8,156 of my life [22Years Old]
Date: 15 July 2011
Location: Coors Field, Denver, Colorado
Category: Incredible
People Involved: Me, a random kid, and thousands of strangers

I’ve kept this moment secret for a while.  It’s not a bad moment.  Actually, it’s the exact opposite.  This moment captured and surprised me in such a way that I didn’t know how to react.  Even now, when I look back, it feels like some strange dream.  Instead of sharing the beautiful story, I locked it up.  I was afraid that sharing it would take away a good deal of its beauty.  But yesterday, while at a Rockies game with my family, I decided to tell my father.  He loved the story just as much as I did.  So, here it goes.

I tend to enjoy doing things alone.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like doing things with people too.  But if I want to do something and can’t find anyone to join me, I do it anyway.  That is how I found myself alone at a Rockies game last summer.  I drove down early.  I found some free parking.  I had a great pizza lunch on the 16th Street Mall.  Then I got in line outside the far gate at Coors Field.  It had been years since I had come early enough to see batting practice.  I wanted to be one of the first people in the park.

It’s exciting to be a part of the group that shows up two hours early for a baseball game.  These are the diehards who can’t afford (or don’t have the time) to go to too many games.  During the free time that they do have, they want the whole experience.  By showing up super early, you get to see the big names field balls and hit home runs left and right.  It’s amazing.  So many people bring their kids and embark on the greatest endeavor: to get them a real MLB baseball.

So that’s what we did.  A couple thousand people flooded into left field when the gates opened.  The teams were just starting their batting practice.  It didn’t take long before the balls started flying into the stands.  Anyone within 10 seats usually will jump up and try to grab it.  Sometimes it falls through the sea of gloves and there is a struggle to see where it falls.  The whole thing feels like one big sociological experiment.

On this particular day, it turned into a really strange sociological experiment.  At Coors Field, left field is largely undivided—except for the front row.  This row is set down about five feet from the rest of left field.  From my experience, this area is reserved for a mixture of handicapped and VIPs.  The thing is, since this area spans the first several feet of home run territory, the fans in these seats are far more likely to get a baseball.

During batting practice, a rather large middle-aged man was getting balls left and right.  I counted at least 3 balls that he was able to grab and return to his backpack over the course of batting practice.  Since we can all see into this area, pretty much everyone saw that this man was hoarding a few of the balls.  It was unfortunate, but that is the way the balls fell.  There was nothing anyone could do about it.

Then an incredible home run was crushed right in my direction.  It land about 10 seats behind me.  The thing is, no one is there to catch it.  The ball hit concrete and bounced right back at me.  I put out my arm and caught the ball with my bare hand.  It hurt like a mother-fucker, but it was so very worth it.  I remember letting out a shout of triumph and pain when I realized I had the ball in my hand.  There were a few claps from the people around me.

I sat down and examined the ball.  A Rockies player had hit it.  I don’t remember who.  I only know this because the other team was fielding at the time.  A few minutes later, the teams were packing it in.  One of the pitchers in front of us was left with a ball.  He looked to the crowd and found a young boy in his team’s jersey.  He pointed at the boy and through the ball at him.   The boy barely missed the ball.  It fell from his glove and into the handicapped/VIP section below.

That’s when things go weird.  The man who obviously had several balls already scooped up the ball.  At first, I thought he would give the ball to the young boy.  It was obviously intended for the young boy, so why not?  But he didn’t.  He returned the ball to the backpack where he had been stashing balls all afternoon.  My entire section in left field immediately started booing.  Everyone saw what had just happened and they were pissed that a greedy old man would take from a boy who deserved the ball.

The man ignored the boos.  I felt my hand grip the ball inside the sack where I had packed peanuts and water.  I didn’t really want the ball…I just wanted the joy of catching one.  Thirty seconds after the incident, I decided, “What the Hell.”  I grabbed the ball and walked down to the boy who had his MLB ball taken away from him.  I handed him the ball without a word and turned around.

What happened next took me completely off guard.  The entire section of a couple thousand people started clapping and cheering.  They had all seen the man jip the young boy…and they all saw me hand my ball to the boy.  I was extremely self-conscious when his happened.  I grabbed my stuff, kept my head down and walked to the bathroom to catch my breath.  They kept clapping until I left the section.

I returned several minutes later.  I couldn’t look around.  I didn’t know how to handle being singled out in such a way.  When batting practice ended, I stayed seated.  A man about 30 years old came up to me and said, “God will reward you.”  Then, he walked away will his wife.  It was one of the strangest, but most incredible moments of my life…

Day Seventeen: Losing Your Mother, Again
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Day Nineteen: My 9/11 Story

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2 thoughts on “Day Eighteen: Batting Practice

  1. Pingback: The End of Baseball Season | Richard Thomas Reilly

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