July 18, 2013
I had prepared myself for it, I had travelled across the country for it, but when it happened I was almost in disbelief. I had just caught my first game home run at my favorite competition of the year, the 2013 Home Run Derby. Most of the ballhawks reading this article have already experienced this feeling, many over and over again. In talking to them, they never seem satisfied and are always working towards their next game home run. I can now proudly say, I know how you feel.
I am envious of the guys I see on the MLB Channel and on MGB making the plays, even the guys that show up in the front rows of the bleachers without a glove and still catch 2 in one game. How does that happen? I have been to hundreds of games, but had only caught one foul ball at the 2010 All Star Game in Anaheim.I don't usually play for game home runs, I am mostly a batting practice guy who enjoys catching BP homers. I had never been to Citi Field, but I bought a ticket in an area that was similar to where I sit at Dodger Stadium.
During the Futures Game and Home Run Derby batting practices, I felt that I had made the wrong choice. Balls were being hit into the upper decks with relative frequency and apparent ease. Still, I felt that my chances of catching a ball, though astronomical, were still better than the average guy who comes to this game with a glove that he/she has not used in many years. In the four years that I have been attending the Home Run Derby, I have still seen many of those average guys come away with a ball. I have also seen Zack and Shawn get home runs, so the skilled guys sometimes won.
I was hoping for an all right hander final round, just as all of the people in the right field bleachers were hoping for the opposite. It would end up being left hander Bryce Harper vs. right hander Yoenis Cespedes in the finals. I was thinking that Cespedes would tire and his home runs may not travel as far. He had expended a lot of energy earlier in the competition and the weather continued to be brutally hot and humid.
I was right. Cespedes' homers started to lose some distance. A guy two rows in front of me (yes two rows) caught a gold ball from Cespedes a round earlier. The section was buzzing as people posed for pictures with the ball and numerous text messages from his friends watching at home were sent to him. I didn't touch it or take pictures of it. I wanted my own. Three other balls had also come within ten seats of me. I was not on an aisle however. Those were now filled with fans. There was no room to maneuver with the standing room crowd of over 45000 on their feet for even the left handed batters. It was hot. The air was stagnant. People were dripping wet.
Harper had already batted. Cespedes needed one more homer to tie him and here it came. I read it good off of the bat. I was lucky. It was not going to make the upper deck. I had two small kids to my right and two 60 year old guys behind me with gloves. I faded to the right and when I noticed that the ball was travelling over my head I jumped as high as a 53 year old white guy can jump, which in this case was high enough. I watched the ball smack cleanly in the pocket of my SSK. I felt satisfaction. I felt relief. I was in shock. It felt good, real good.
Most of you know that feeling. I wish I could bottle it and bring it out every day. But I can't. So I will be out there again this week at the ball park battling the sun, the heat and the gloveless drunk fan waiting for another chance for one to come my way.Best of luck to all of you the rest of the season.
Devin Trone is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.