Eye on sky, let pigeons follow only foul balls

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 20, 2010

Many have, or at least know of, a bucket list — a to-do list before moving onto the ever-after.

Some lists are challenging — scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, traversing the Gobi desert and swimming the Yangtze River — while others are more mundane — driving a Bentley, visiting the Grand Canyon and catching a foul ball.

Ah, the foul ball. Americana. Mom. Apple Pie. Baseball and the chance to flex some baseball skills to tote home a $10 piece of rubber and rawhide.

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For 32 years, catching a foul ball at a professional baseball game has stood atop the bucket list, a simple pleasure for a simple man. From that first game in the mezzanine at the former Yankee Stadium in 1978, the quest for fan stardom has taken me around so many ballparks.

I have been in the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium inadvertently catching recycled pigeon food on my right leg. Fowl indeed.

I have sat on the baselines, close to the field, in the upper deck so high up I gave the score and inning updates to passing airline pilots.

I flubbed a chance 25 years ago in suburban Albany, N.Y., when, sitting with Dad along the first base line, a shot headed my way only to skip past me as I ducked out of the way. That one wimpy move haunts me to this day.

There was the time sitting four rows behind the Twins’ dugout at Yankee Stadium when Dave Winfield popped a mile-high foul ball coming right at me only to hit the support cable holding up the backstop netting.

I’ve seen a friend take a batting practice grounder off the temple, saw a co-worker flub a golden chance at a foul ball on opening day of the Mississippi Braves 2010 season and nearly saw a woman suffer a direct hit to the noggin on a screaming line drive. Her husband was so gracious, he danced out of the way to avoid his injury at the expense of his wife.

I’ve even been in a foul-ball mecca — behind home plate, front row luxury box at Yankee Stadium. The seats are so prone to foul balls, those in the front row get fishing nets for easy retrieval. Of course, the only foul balls that day must have come as I raided the nearby hot dog cart.

It’s a quest that will continue at ballparks coast-to-coast. One day that screamer will have my name on it. Memories of flinching out of the way in Albany and the support cable will be just that, memories. I might break a finger, take one across the melon or tump over a row of seats, but hope springs eternal. As long as there is professional baseball, there is a chance.

Please, though, no more pigeons.

Sean P. Murphy is web editor. He can be reached at smurphy@vicksburgpost.com