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Guest Columnist

White Water Ballhawking

One of the beauties of baseball is that every time you go to the ballpark, there is a decent chance you will see something that you have never seen before. Naturally, this extends to ballhawking.

In over 18 years of ballhawking, I have seen some strange bounces. Some have seemingly defied the laws of physics. But the oddest thing I have seen occurred on July 3, 1993, and I was the beneficiary.

First, a brief history lesson. Before the Oakland Coliseum was renovated in 1995 to turn the stadium into an unsightly dump at the behest of the Raiders, the bleacher configuration was similar to that of Dodger Stadium. Each bleacher section had a staircase at the bottom of the aisle allowing fans to go down behind the fence for baseballs.

The 10- to 15-foot area between the bleachers and the fence was a virtual obstacle course, mostly because the grounds crew's workshop resided under the left-field seats. Tractors, BP screens and camera stands were among the many hazards we had to avoid while chasing baseballs.

On July 3, 1993, there was a seemingly harmless hazard resting on the ground against the bleachers. It was a bucket of chalk that had been emptied and rinsed out. The water was still in it, white from the chalk residue.

In the fifth inning, A's center fielder Dave Henderson came to the plate with two outs against Yankees right-hander Melido Perez. I was sitting in my customary spot, in the first row on the aisle next to the stairs. My friend Eric, owner of roughly 20 game home runs, was sitting across the aisle.

At this point, I committed the cardinal sin of ballhawking. I wasn't paying attention. While my mind was elsewhere, Eric suddenly took off down the stairs. I followed, knowing a ball was on the way, but with zero idea of where exactly it was heading.

Once I got down behind the fence, I looked up to try to find the ball. After what seemed like forever, I saw a splash out of the corner of my eye. Eric was standing a few feet away from the aforementioned bucket, frozen in place while a mini-tsunami raged.

As I walked past him, I actually asked, "What are you doing?" I fished the ball out of the bucket to secure what I can only imagine was the Bay Area's first Splash Hit.

Although I did not clearly see the ball splash down, eyewitnesses confirmed that the ball indeed landed in the bucket of water on the fly. Eric was thrown off by the white water in the bucket, thinking there might be some kind of hazardous chemicals in there. But even if there were, it was a freaking home run ball. And it only took two days to dry off.

Rick Gold is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.

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