Catching a Baseball

Last weekend, a friend, who was attending a Minnesota Twins baseball game with his son, caught a baseball in the stands.  The next day, as he described the thoughts and feelings that flashed through his mind during those few seconds, it revived a memory of my own experience catching a baseball at a Twins game.

For me, it happened more than a decade ago–before blogs had been invented.  At the time, I wrote a short article for possible publication.  Now, with my own blog, I’m finally getting a chance to “publish” it.  Here it is:

—–

Catching a Dream

It all happens in less than two seconds, without any warning. I’ve waited over thirty years, about one billion seconds, for just this moment. I’ve dreamed about it, prepared for it, and yet I’m still surprised when it happens.

The long wait started in the mid-1960’s, when I attended my first major league baseball game. My Dad and I, along with seven other father-and-son pairs, made the 200-mile trek from central Iowa to Metropolitan Stadium, home of the Minnesota Twins. Our seats were high in the stands, far down the right field line.

Following my Dad’s advice to be prepared, I had brought my baseball glove. I wore it religiously, always ready to catch a foul ball hit my way. Between innings, I slipped it off and quickly ate my hot dog and Frosty Malt. By the time the leadoff batter stepped up to the plate, the glove was back on my hand.

If I could just catch a ball, I would prove to my Dad and everyone else that I was prepared and that I was someone special.

I came home from that first game with a new Twins cap and a Twins victory. It was a great day, but it hadn’t been perfect. I didn’t catch a ball.

The next year, our father-son group made the same trip. This time I came home with a tiny 12-inch souvenir bat signed by Harmon Killebrew—but no ball. A pattern was being established.

Throughout my childhood, I faithfully brought my glove to every game. Eventually, however, my dream of bringing home a baseball faded and slipped away.

Three decades have passed, and I’m back in Minnesota. I’m becoming a Twins fan once again, after years of living on the East Coast and cheering for the Boston Red Sox. Metropolitan Stadium has long ago been torn down, replaced by an enclosed dome. Now there is a huge video screen in left field, where we all watch replays and look for our faces when the cameras sweep across the crowd between innings.

The Red Sox are in town, and my Dad has purchased three good seats—twenty-five rows up, just to the right of home plate. We make it a three-generation event—Dad, me, and Erik, my nine-year-old son. I tell Erik to bring his glove. “You should always be prepared,” I remind him. Just to prove the point, I grab my glove.

As we take our seats, I put on my glove and talk to Erik about the importance of being prepared. This is a major life lesson that I feel compelled to pass on to the next generation.

As I settle into the middle decades of my life, however, I am having doubts about the whole notion of “being prepared.” I used to think I could plan carefully for the future and thereby make my dreams come true. The events of the past few decades—getting married, having four children, zigzagging along several career paths, getting divorced, becoming a single father—have proved how unpredictable and uncontrollable life can be. I’m beginning to wonder why I spend time and energy holding on to dreams when life can take a sudden strange turn at any moment.

I don’t confide these misgivings to my son—or to my father. Instead, I bring my glove to the game and remind them both to be prepared. Between innings, however, I hide my glove in my lap. I don’t want the television camera to catch me, a respectable adult, wearing a baseball glove like a little kid.

It’s the seventh inning and the Twins are up to bat. Suddenly, without warning, it happens.

A fastball is fouled almost straight back. It zooms just to the right side of the protective screen behind the plate. I see it climbing toward me, skimming over the heads of the fans in front. It must be moving 80 miles an hour, a dangerous missile. In the scant two seconds that it takes the ball to travel to me, I have time for only three thoughts—”This could be it. Stand up. Put your glove out.”

The ball comes so quickly. I don’t have a chance to think back to that first Twins game thirty years earlier. I don’t have a chance to consider what lessons about life my son might learn from this moment. I don’t have a chance to contemplate my own mid-life doubts about fate and personal power. I just have time to stick out my glove.

Thwap!! I catch it right in the pocket of my glove. I don’t believe it’s really there until I reach in and pull it out. The fans around me are cheering. I feel flushed, excited. Should I stand up and acknowledge the applause? I glance at the big video screen to see if there will be a replay—the screen is advertising a local tire company. Confused, yet proud, I hold up my glove and wave it.

During the rest of the game, I keep touching the ball, examining it. It says, “Official Baseball, American League.” It’s scuffed and dirtier than I expected, not flawless and unblemished like in my dream.

I show it to my Dad and my son. I smile and relax.


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Published in: on May 20, 2009 at 3:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Man, I’ve always wanted to catch a ball at a game and I never have. I went to a Mariners game last Saturday but I don’t bring my glove anymore (my boys would be MORTIFIED). I enjoy your blog!


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