Other than the ungodly pollen count, Spring Training Baseball is a sure sign that summer is around the corner. Fifteen teams open their Spring Training today in the sunshine state. And most boys (big and little) love baseball. It’s a rite of passage, really, catching a foul ball. Who knew this was an art?
One of my best memories of attending a baseball game was snagging a foul ball…(yes, it was most unfortunate that the elderly grandma had to go down). The other best baseball memory involves my mom, the Braves, a hill, and her “grippers”, but I digress. But some 20 years later, I still hold onto my catch of a lifetime.
That very memory came flooding back when I read the following article in Mens Health.
Aside from actual baseball players, the one key ingredient to a great major-league ball game is, of course, the ball. Without it, you’ve got 50 guys wearing funny clothes on a huge putting green. But toss a ball out there and you’ve got the Great American Pastime. No wonder a baseball–one you catch fresh and right off the bat–is the souvenir of choice for any fan, boy or man. Here’s how to leave the ballpark with one more ball than you had when you got there.
1. The easy way. Go to batting practice, where they practically give away souvenir baseballs. Aging coaches lob softball pitches to twentysomething sluggers–and the result is a concessionaire’s nightmare. Arrive about a half- hour before B.P. starts and stand on an aisle, next to the field, about three-quarters of the way from third base to the foul pole. Why there? Because God created more right-handed batters than left-handed batters, and during B.P., most of them will pull the ball like crazy.
2. The hard way. Catching a baseball while the game is in progress is another thing. In the first place, there are 50,000 bodies between you and the ball. Worse, a thousand mysterious details will determine how many fouls will be hit and where they are likely to land. Check out the pitching matchup. If you’re watching left-handed pitchers, pick a seat along the first-base line. A lefty pitcher means the batting lineup will be stacked with righties. In an actual game, it’s harder to pull the ball; right handed batters are more likely to come around late and foul balls toward the first-base side. (If the pitcher is a right-hander, the situation is reversed.)
Choose your alley. The best place to snag a ball is in the alley between third and the foul pole–but only if the wall separating the stands from the field is low enough to reach over. At Yankee Stadium, for example, there are points about 100 feet down the first- and third-base lines where the wall is only 2 or 3 feet high–short enough for even a kid to grab a rolling grounder gone foul. There are other areas of the grandstand where a particular type of foul is likely to land.
Go prepared. If you want to catch a ball, bring a glove. Duh. A line drive off a 90 mph fastball is traveling at 120 to 150 mph. Guys who try to catch one of those barehanded go straight to stupid jail. If a ball’s coming toward you and you don’t have a glove- -but you have the desire– anything will do. You can use a beer cup, in a pinch, depending on how good the beer is. Popcorn bags also work pretty well. Bag a four-bagger. Catching a home-run ball is a lot more work and a lot more competitive. So if only a dinger will do, choose one of the first few seats around the foul poles. Our source for this is Zack, a freshman at Guilford College in North Carolina. Zack has more than 1,000 souvenir balls in his room at home. He knows. And he says that the prime seat for snagging a ball at Yankee Stadium is Box 325, row A, seat 6. The “seat 6″ part is a lie, of course, since to reveal the perfect seat would be to reveal too much. But it’s close enough for you to be able to reach over and nab one.
The crack of the wooden bat…the smell of cut grass…the umpire yelling “Play Ball”….yeah – I love spring.