Sep 1, 2010
The evening at Dodger Stadium had gone from hot to cool and the fans were all hoping the Dodgers' bats wouldn't share the same fate. Needing a boost to help out their starter, Ted Lilly, the Blue Crew got some power from an unexpected contributor. Lilly would go the distance, allowing just two hits and his counterpart, Jorge de la Rosa, did pretty well, too. De la Rosa's only big mistake? Well, let's just say there were a couple of firsts on this electric night of fine pitching. De la Rosa threw a pitch to Reed Johnson in the second inning. It became the first (and only) home run of the night, Johnson's first as a Dodger, and the first baseball for an international Dodger fan, Mr. Kuei-Fan Liu, visiting L.A. from Taiwan.
I approach Mr. Liu and his group as they are engaged in excited chatter an inning after the home run. When I ask to interview him he agrees, at the urging of his friends. Later on I'll watch a video of the home run and Mr. Liu and see the excitement that overtook he and the whole section as the ball landed in the pavilion. In our interview, however, Mr. Liu stays calm, considering himself, quite possibly, the luckiest fan in the stadium. Surrounded by his friends, he tells me they're very excited for him: "They all love me now!" Which results in laughter from the whole group. And when I ask him what his feeling was as the ball rocketed towards the seats he states, "I just worried that the ball would hit me." He tells me that he didn't come prepared with a glove because he didn't know he'd even have a chance at a home run. This is his first professional baseball game in America. Your first game... ever? "Yes." Wow. "I think some other people will try to catch the ball. But then it rolled down here," he gestures down to the concrete beneath his bleacher seat. He truly is lucky. The video highlight online shows that at least four other people in the rows above him reached for the ball... but Mr. Liu was able to grab it after it bounced off a few hands.
His friends are snapping photos as I continue the interview, they're all excited. This small, rubbed-up pearl has just made their experience one that will last forever in their memories, even half a world away. So, Mr. Liu, what are you going to do with the ball? Put it on the mantle, in a trophy case? Maybe just throw it in a drawer somewh-he cuts me off. "Of course not!" He smiles, knowing that he's got big plans for his one of a kind souvenir. "I will keep this ball and I'll go back to Taiwan and tell all my friends I got the home run ball," at his very first MLB game. I take a few photos with the group after concluding the interview and leave them, still excitedly conversing about all that's transpired.
It's a 2-0 victory for the Dodgers as they shut out the visiting Rockies and Ted Lilly's performance is truly a great one on this August night. For certain fans though, August 19th, 2010, will be remembered for something other than a sparkling pitching performance or a smooth double play turned by their hometown Boys in Blue. For a select lucky (and skilled) few, this night is about taking a piece of the game home with them. Whether it's to display it, tuck it away, or save it for their children one day, a baseball finding its way into the hands of a fan is something that will cause as much joy as any Dodger win. And, let's face it, who wouldn't want to own a small piece of baseball history for their very own, win or lose, day or night. For any baseball fan, ending up with a ball from a player, whether it's thrown, hit, or found, is an exciting experience. You're a star for a brief second, proudly thrusting the souvenir up in the air, thrilled that of 45,000+ fans-this one found it's way to you. Just think... what'll you do the next time one comes your way?
Thanks again to Amy Summers and the L.A. Dodgers for making this feature article possible.