baseball opening day

The Foul Ball-Popcorn Incident

It’s the summer of 1999.  Freshman year of college is over.  It’s the season after the 1998 Padres went to the World Series.  Baseball fever is still burning in San Diego and voters are excited about Petco Park.  (Incidentally, I voted in favor of the Petco Park initiative in the first election I ever voted in after I turned 18)

My best friend and I decided to catch a midweek baseball game at Qualcomm because someone had tickets on the first base line that they couldn’t use.  So off we went.

The seats were great.  We were about three rows up from the field and we were right in line with Wally Joyner at first base.  My friend had a crush on catcher Ben Davis, so her attention was diverted when the pitch was thrown, the bat connected with the ball, and a pop up fly ball was sent high into the sky.

Like I said, we were given the tickets and we left for the game without any real preparation. This meant I didn’t bring any protection.  No, not that kind of protection.  I’m talking about my trusty baseball glove.  I’d never caught a foul ball before; I always went to games with my glove in hopes of catching one.

As I looked up, it became painfully obvious that the ball was going to drop straight in our seats.  Time stopped—it literally stopped—as I started to ponder my predicament.

I don’t have my glove.

That ball is coming right down at me.

She’s not going to catch the ball.  It’s up to me.

If I catch the ball barehanded, I could break my hand.  That is not good.

I don’t have my damn glove.

I can’t possibly catch it in my left hand.

Everyone is watching me.

I don’t have my f—ing glove!

I don’t have my glove, but I DO have this bucket of popcorn.  Hmm.  I wonder if this will work….

When time started working again, my friend realized what was about to happen and started to scream. As if that was going to help. Geez.

Suddenly, as I moved to position the popcorn bucket, the man behind us reached between our seats (with his glove poised ABOVE my popcorn bucket) and caught the ball.

He caught MY ball.

The moral of the story:  Never go to a baseball game without protection.  Trust me on this one.

For Sports Fans, A Night of Highs and Lows

It’s Opening Day in baseball and the National Championship game in college basketball.  For sports fans, it’s a double whammy.

As a Padres fan, I went into Opening Day with the ol’ “hope springs eternal” mantra on repeat in my head.  After all, last season the team spent a small fortune on a pool of talent, and this season we have new manager Andy Green at the helm.  Opening Day is a time of hope and optimism, and nothing says optimism like a new manager sitting on a talented team.  Tyson Ross got the start against our I-5 rival Los Angeles Dodgers, and it seems like nerves may have gotten the best of him after 7 earned runs and a slew of other not-so-good stats.  Clayton Kershaw, by contrast, left the game after 7 shutout innings.  Adding insult to injury was a solid performance from Adrian Gonzalez who, after years away from the Padres franchise, still earns a warm reception at Petco Park as the one who got away.

It was a rough night for Padres fans in San Diego, but the hope is still out there, and we have another shot for a win against the Dodgers tomorrow night.

As soon as the baseball game was over, I switched channels to the NCAA National Championship basketball game.  Admittedly I’d been flipping channels between innings, so I knew the game featuring #1 seed North Carolina and #2 seed Villanova was tight.  At one point in the second half Villanova had a double digit lead that had Michael Jordan on the edge of his seat.

With 4.7 seconds left, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit an improbable three to tie the game at 74.  Paige was recovering his footing after dodging Ryan Arcidacono’s dive.  During the timeout, Arcidacono helped wipe the floor, which is very considerate considering he’s the guy who inbounds the ball for Villanova with 4.7 seconds left.  He gets the ball across the court, where it gets passed to Kris Jenkins, who is wide open and sinks a three to win the game.

Cue the confetti.  Villanova wins 77-74, and Michael Jordan gives the world a new Crying Jordan meme to play with.

It was a night of highs and lows.  Congrats to Villanova on one of the craziest finishes in NCAA Tournament history, and good job to the Dodgers.  (Sorry, couldn’t bring myself to congratulate them…though props go out to new manager Dave Roberts because he’s a good guy)

A buzzer beating 3-pointer is much more defeating than a 15 point loss, but a loss is a loss at the end of the day.

In the case of North Carolina, I have no doubt they’ll be back at the Big Dance next year.

For the Padres, it’s a drop in the bucket.  Never mind that tonight’s loss was the largest Opening Day shutout in MLB history.  Pfft.  There are over a hundred-something games left in the season, so it’s safe to say we’ll get ‘em next time around.  Next time happens to be tomorrow.

So ends a very exciting day in the sports world.


Opening Day Reflections: My Own (Brief) Baseball Career

It’s Opening Day and ballparks across the nation are celebrating the return of America’s sport: Baseball.

I grew up with baseball.  My father, having two daughters, made sure that I could play baseball and throw a football, which ended up being really useful for me later in life.  I liked baseball so much that I quit Girl Scouts at the ripe age of seven so that I could focus on my baseball career.  Who needs to sit around singing songs and making snickerdoodles, anyway?

However, in 1987 my options as a girl were limited.  There were no softball teams, so during t-ball signups my dad marched me down to the Peninsula Little League and signed me up.  I was one of two girls in the entire league, and I was incredibly fortunate to end up on a team comprised of my guy friends from school.  Our coach was not only my best guy friend’s father, but he grew up with my parents, so he kept an eye out for me.

When I arrived to our first practice with a pink Rawlings glove and blue and white bows in my hair (they matched my Slices and Skills uniform, of course), there were a few laughs.  However, my best guy friend Jesse decided that if I could have a pink glove, he should have the matching blue one.  Being the coach’s son ended any further teasing about glove colors.

Not to brag, but if you’re wondering about the differences between six year old boys and girls, I can tell you that I was assigned to play first base for a reason.  I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but it had a lot to do with my ability to listen and follow directions.  I’m rather proud of that accomplishment, really.  I practiced hard and took my sport seriously.  (I think part of me was worried that if baseball didn’t work out, I’d be sent back to Girl Scouts, and that just wasn’t going to happen)

I’ll never forget the game that won me the team ball.  I don’t remember much of the game itself.  I have no idea what the score was.  I don’t even remember if I got a hit.  I remember this game because it was the game where I realized that even though I was part of the team, as a girl I’d never be treated the same as my guy teammates.

I was at first base when the kid came up to bat.  He connected with the ball and sent a grounder straight to our short stop, Johnny Rod.  Johnny’s dad was the third base coach and Johnny was the oldest and biggest guy on our team.  He always had a huge chip on his shoulder and thought he was the best at everything he did, and he had no trouble letting me know that I didn’t belong at first base, let alone on the team.  Johnny snatched up the ball and threw it in my direction.  The runner was heading toward the bag, but Johnny had thrown the ball way too high.  Summoning up every ounce of bounce in my six year old body (taking gymnastics at the same time didn’t hurt, either), I jumped up and grabbed the ball in my pink glove.  I landed and made the out in the nick of time.  My teammates cheered for me, but I wasn’t paying attention to them.  I knew full well Johnny had thrown the ball too high on purpose.  And I wasn’t the only one.  Johnny’s dad left his spot at third base in an instant and was on the field chewing his son out in front of everyone.  The game stopped until he was done, and he made Johnny shout an apology to me before we could continue.

When the game was over, I pulled my cap off and my beribboned pigtails fell to my shoulders.  “Hey, that’s a girl playing first base!” one of the kids on the opposing team yelled, pointing at me.  I guess the pink glove hadn’t tipped him off…

Coach gave me the team ball for my outstanding performance that day.  It was a great moment for me, but I knew that Johnny was really irked about the whole thing, and I knew it didn’t help that his own father was heaping praise on me.  It made things awkward from that point forward.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my days playing baseball were numbered.  There was only so far that a girl could go in the little league.  Even when I stopped playing, I enjoyed going to games with my pink glove in hopes of catching a foul ball.  (That’s a story for another day)

As I sit and watch Opening Day coverage, I like to think back about my own baseball days.  Despite my brief baseball career, I’m quite happy being a spectator all these years later.  Baseball is a special sport that holds a revered place in our nation’s heart.   Boy or girl, man or woman, young or old, it captivates us and carries us through the long summer months and gives us something to cheer for (even when your team is losing).

Welcome back, baseball.  We’ve missed you.