Sep 13, 2010
After I read Alan Schuster's post on www.mygameballs.com from Monday Sept. 6th I felt, like Alan, that this youngster deserved the applause and accolades that go with catching a home run ball especially when you are in a sea of adults. We set out to find out who the little guy was that caught the Brad Hawpe home run on Saturday September 4th, 2010 at Camden Yards.
I posted Alan's column from Monday on my MLBlog and my website and later that morning I had a note from his uncle. A couple days later and I had talked to his mom and aunt as well and this is the Story of Jake Shuster and the Brad Hawpe 9th inning home run on Saturday September 4th, 2010 at Camden Yards.
Jake Shuster and his family were headed on a trip to see his Aunt. Jakes 10th birthday was less than a week away and the weekend before it he was headed to Baltimore. Jake's mom, Stacie Shuster had not seen her sister in a while. Her sister Sami was excited that she was going to get to see her niece and nephew the weekend of September 3rd - 5th. The family knew that part of the trip was going to be a trip to Camden Yard's to see the Orioles play the Tampa Ray's on Saturday September 4th. This would be Jake's 1st Major League Baseball game ever!
As the family left their Freehold, New Jersey home someone immediately realized that something was wrong. Oh no, Jake had forgotten his baseball glove. Why did this matter? Jake knew he was going to go the game and he wanted to catch a baseball. "I told him it was a one in a million chance for him to get a ball" said his mom Stacie. "He had his mind set on getting a ball and I just hoped he wouldn't be to hurt when he didn't get one." Luckily for Jake his grandpa's baseball glove was in the trunk of the car so he would not be gloveless at the game.
Saturday night the Shuster family, with relatives in tow, headed out to Camden Yards. They did not get there for batting practice and walked in the park just as the National Anthem was being sung. Jake's mom Stacie recalls that Jake was constantly asking "Do you think I can get a ball". Her answer was the same "It's a one in a million chance."
They went to their seats which were in the 2nd row of the centerfield bleachers. There was a chance that they could get a ball but it would have to be hit right at them. As the game went on the Orioles built up a lead and as the game headed into the 9th inning the score was 8-2 Baltimore. Stacie Shuster wanted Jake to go home with a ball so she headed over to the bullpen area just a few feet away from their seats and asked a coach for a ball. The coach tossed one to her and she dropped it, he threw it again, she dropped it again. "This is the last chance you get lady!" the coach said. He threw it the 3rd time and she caught it. Jake would have a baseball after all.
Just then Jakes sister ran over to her mom and said "Dad just got a ball from BJ Upton for Jake!" As Jake's sister said that Stacie held up the ball that she had gotten Jake as well. Now the little guy had 2 baseballs that his parents had snagged for him. With the goal of the night seemingly accomplished the family was thinking about leaving. Just then a couple of seats opened up in front of them in the first row. Jake immediately hopped over the seats and sat down with his dad. At that point Matt Joyce was up and the count was 3-2 and there were 2 outs. Joyce launched a ball for a home run about a section and a half to their left.
With that I am guessing that there was no way Jake was going to let anyone leave the game before the last out. Brad Hawpe now stepped in and the count went to 2-2 on him. What happened next is something that most fans and Ballhawks dream about. Brad Hawpe launches a ball to centerfield, right at Jake and his dad. Jake's dad starts leaning in towards Jake and the ball and then all of a sudden puts his hands up. Jake is now leaning over the wall in the direction of the baseball and he still has the ball that his dad got from BJ Upton in his non glove hand. Jake leans out over the wall, the ball hits his glove, he squeezes it as tight as he can and pulls it in.
Immediately Jake is a celebrity, a man with a video camera from either the Orioles or MLB just happened to be standing taking video and got it all on camera. Jake's mom comes running over and grabs him and gives him a big hug as you see in the photo. Fans were taking pictures and giving him high fives. Jake remembers seeing Orioles outfielder Corey Patterson looking up at him and Jake asked his mom, "Is he mad at me?" She quickly assured him that he was not mad and was likely just as amazed by Jakes grab as everyone else. In fact if you look at the video replay of it Patterson seems to take a double take after seeing that such a little guy made a great grab!
Jake's mom and aunt both mentioned the fact that he signed several autographs after he caught the ball. "It was truly amazing" both Stacie and her sister Sami said. Sami also added that she is the proudest Aunt ever. "Maybe I am making a big deal of it but to me it was pretty impressive."
The story doesn't end there though, Stacie's sister wanted them to go check out her work, a nearby hospital. As they walked into the hospital someone in the lobby looked at Jake and said "Hey you're the kid that caught that home run ball!" Then Jake let go of the comment of the night "Mom, I am almost, like, famous aren't I?" All she could do is smile and tell him that yes indeed he was now famous! The entire family could only think one thing "If you set your mind to do something and you want it bad enough anything can happen" and for Jake it did!
Jake caught that ball a couple days before school started this past week and he could not wait to get home and show all of his friends the video clip and the ball, A true Ballhawk indeed!
Congratulations Jake! An awesome catch! We just hope that now his parents understand what they are in for. It has been 34 years since my first catch and I am still at it, I am sure Jake will want to go to a lot more games now that he knows now that he can get a baseball on his own without mom and dad's help!
MyGameBalls.com is all about giving Ballhawks their 15 minutes and in this case it is a well deserved 15 minutes. Jake truly deserves to be on Leno or Letterman in our opinions and don't think we won't give them a call this week!
We hope that this is not the end of Jake's story so stay tuned ..... We might just have something else up our sleeves on this one!
John Witt is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.