Oct 15, 2011
In the sixth inning rookie Alex Presley lofted his third career home run into the right field All-You-Can Eat Seats. I watched from the infield as someone in the sea of people made a clean catch of the ball. Looking at the replay a day later it was clear that the fan that caught it was thrilled--he raised his arms up and his mouth was agape as he yelled and cheered. A once in a lifetime moment. Lucky for me, I didn't have to wait until the next day--I found fourteen year-old high school shortstop Alex, from La Canada, CA a few moments later and sat down with him in the bleachers. "Well, there was a home run by the Pittsburgh Pirate player. I just stuck my glove out--I didn't think I could do it--but," and then young Alex shows me the baseball in his hand.
It's clear he's excited, nervous, and extremely happy. He'd just gotten off the phone with his grandfather and had told him about the catch he'd made as I chatted with Alex's mom to see if it would be OK if I interviewed him. The whole family ("There are eight of us," his mother would later tell me.) is jittery with excitement for Alex. Meanwhile, the booing from the surrounding fans has started to subside. He did, after all, catch a visiting team's homer and he didn't throw it back. I tell him, "I saw Matt Kemp pick up a ball that got thrown back to the field." He tells me that someone a section to his right threw that ball--the crowd was yelling at Alex quite a bit and that friendly stranger's throw "took some of the heat off."
Alex is no stranger to catching baseballs. He's played the game for years and he's snagged a few foul balls from minor league games but never a Major League home run. "I knew I was going to be here," he says, gesturing to the outfield seats. That's why he brought his glove. I said to him, "You're in the middle of a row here. The ball would have to come right to you!" It did. Alex confesses he did have to lean a bit to his left, "It would have hit [his friend's mom]. She didn't have a glove or anything." Alex laughs, and the family and friends around him agree.
He goes on, "It all like slowed down--I felt really excited." And after the catch... it was from a Pirate and Alex tells me he's a Dodger fan: "Well, you kinda feel guilty." He references that he knows that at a lot of places ("like Cubs games") there's an expectation that you throw the ball back. Alex, still reeling from this momentous occasion says, "It's my first time ever home run catch. It's really important, special..." and then, in one of the more memorable quotes of this pleasant L.A. evening, Alex concludes he just couldn't bring himself to throw it back. "I love baseball so much. I needed to keep it forever." He tells me, "I have a collection of foul balls. I'm gonna put it on my desk."
His shining new trophy--his mom is thrilled--and when I ask Alex to say, in one word, how the catch made him fell he enthusiastically responds, "Exhilerated!" and then adds, "It's just amazing." I snap a photo of Alex with his friends and family before parting ways. It's moments like that, hat keep the fans coming to the stadium--all thirty of them--night after night over the course of a 162-game season. It's the magic, the randomness, the "exhilarated" feeling we all get.
Stay tuned to myGameBalls.com for Part 3 of this series, coming tomorrow.