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Beyond the Fences

What is 'Ho-Hum' to Us Is Important to Others

As a Veteran Ballhawk it is always fun to listen to the conversations around you during batting practice. You hear the fathers telling their kids that they will get them a ball as they stand next to you and you know that likely you will end up giving their kid a ball because Dad has no shot where he is. You hear the moms always saying that the man who caught that ball should give it to the kids. You hear the guy and his 3 buddies talking about how they went to a game once and he caught 2 home runs, except the point he didn't make was that they were during BP and not the game.

It is always fun to listen to different people talk about their dreams of catching a baseball. Many of them think that we, the ballhawks, are lucky to get just one ball and when we get 2 or 3 we are really lucky! Many times I won't share the fact that I have caught thousands of baseballs unless they bring up seeing Zack on TV or reading about me in the local paper.

My favorite story about people and their stories comes from an Angels' game last season after a near miss with a baseball. The guy standing next to me started telling me about the 16 balls that he has caught over his lifetime. As we were standing there he was giving me pointers on how to ask players for baseballs, how to lean over the wall without falling and where to go to have a better chance. I think the last part was to get me out of the spot I was in next to him.

He then went on to tell me about the 12 balls that he had talked players into throwing to him and the other 4 balls that he had run down. He had never actually caught a ball on the fly in batting practice. At this point I could have just started telling stories about all the baseballs that I had caught and given him pointers much more informative than what he was telling me but I chose to just listen.

A few minutes later a ball came rolling around the wall and he leaned over not coming close to the ground and I grabbed the ball just as it went under his glove. The great thing was right after I grabbed it he said, "See ya just got to balance yourself on the edge of the wall and you can get it!" I thanked him for the advice.

Towards the end of batting practice he still had not caught a ball. Then a lefty came in and he said this guy is going to hit us one. Wouldn't you know that this guy was right and on the next pitch a fly ball was on it's way right to us. I knew that I was going to catch this ball because I could stand on the ledge of the field access door and have twice the reach of this guy. Instead however I decided NOT to stand on the ledge and I simply let the ball fly into his glove.

He was ecstatic giving high 5's to everyone around us, calling a couple of friends on his cell phone and even telling me that he was sorry he made the catch in front of me. To me it was just another "Ho-Hum" baseball but to him it was a catch of a lifetime!

John Witt is a contributing columnist to and also maintains a Blog.

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