St. Louis Cardinals: What a Foul Ball Means to a Kid
Baseballs are not the rarest of items, nor are they something that is considered particularly expensive. So why does receiving a foul ball make young baseball fans so joyful? This St. Louis Cardinals fan shares his joy at such a miniature spectacle.
Tuesday night, a young St. Louis Cardinals fan who was sitting along the left field foul line received a gift that he probably wouldn’t have expected before the game. That gift came in the form of the foul ball, but the foul ball itself isn’t what made it extra special.
This foul ball came off the bat of St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Stephen Piscotty, and at that game, the young fan was sporting a jersey with Piscotty’s name across the back. So it is safe to infer that Stephen Piscotty was this fan’s favorite player.
The young fan was smart enough to bring his glove to the park that night, and was rewarded as Piscotty scorched the ball right down the line and into his mitt.
After catching the ball, the young boy proceeded to celebrate and high-five with what we can assume to be his family and other surrounding fans. The boy’s elation and happiness made me wonder why catching a foul ball at a professional baseball game is such a joyful moment for young baseball fans.
This brings me to my own experience as a young baseball fan. In 2005, the St. Louis Cardinals moved their double-A baseball club from Tennessee to Springfield, Missouri. Springfield, being only about an hour away from the small town that I lived in, was the perfect getaway for a young Cardinals fan like myself.
I was ten years old at the time (I’m 21), and was learning that baseball was something that I was really passionate about. It was during that time period that I caught the foul ball fever.
One of my friends invited me out to a Springfield Cardinals’ ball game, and we had great seats, right behind the first base dugout. At the time, I had no idea but, as most baseball junkies know, that spot is perfect for catching a game ball, as the first baseman will throw the ball into the stands after catching the third out of an inning.
Now when I say “foul ball,” I use the term loosely to describe any ball hit or thrown by a player into the stands.
This game, that situation occurred not only once, but twice, and in both occurrences the ball ended up in my friend’s hands. My friend offered me the second ball, and I accepted it, but it was at that point that I started to desire a foul ball at every baseball game I attended.
This obsession carried on for years, and, over time, I have gathered more than 20 Texas League game baseballs. This included a streak where I got a foul ball every time I went to Hammons Field for 18 straight games, once getting two in the same game.
It became a task for me to complete when I went to the ballpark, and there was nothing like the joy I felt every time I successfully finished the job.
Most of the balls are autographed by now MLB regulars like Shelby Miller, Jon Jay, Colby Rasmus, Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong and even Oscar Taveras.
The others are signed by minor league dropouts like Papo Bolivar, Juan Diaz, Zack Cox, Andrew Brown and Chris Swauger. At the time they meant more than the value of the player’s signature; the fact that I had a game ball that was being signed by real professional baseball player was enough for me.
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No matter what player hit the ball or who signed the ball, each and every one of them put joy inside me that is really difficult to describe. It’s not just the fact that you caught or were thrown the ball, but the fact that you were part of the game and garnered a celebration from the fans sitting around you.
Though I have caught a few foul balls in the last few years, I don’t have the passion (or the shame) that I used to for catching foul balls. When the young fan caught the ball on Tuesday night, it brought me back to that feeling and how exciting it is to catch a foul ball at a professional baseball game.
Now that I am 21-years-old, I am starting to realize that the next time I catch a foul ball, it won’t mean as much to me as it will the kid sitting a few rows over. Plus, I am finally old enough to be judged for keeping a foul ball, rather than giving it away to a younger fan.
So I ask that the next time you attend a baseball game, you look around you and make sure that there aren’t any young fans who are dreaming of catching their first foul ball because it is a special thing about baseball.
(Unless you make a ridiculous catch with a baby, or catch it in your beer; those deserve to be kept).
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