Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Kids, keep your hands off my balls
It's a little hard to tell from the photo, but the guy in the blue shirt is giving a foul ball he caught in Sunday's Nationals/Orioles game to the cute little kid sitting behind him, much to the delight of everyone around. It was an adorable moment, and if you're saying, "Awwwww," I'm not going to lie, I was right there with you on Sunday.
Here's the thing, though. I know that it's a tradition for people to give baseballs to kids at games. During warm-ups, players will toss them into the stands. When the ball girl recovers a foul ball, she'll select a kid sitting close by to hand it to. And of course, as in the photo, people in the stands will sometimes give a ball they catch to a kid sitting nearby.
But in regards to that last one, I don't get it. Why do so many people just hand them over?
Just in the baseball games I've watched recently (and I really don't watch a lot of baseball, so I have to think it's even more widespread) it happened this past weekend, it happened twice when I was at the Nats/Phillies game, and there was a home run that was hit a couple of weeks ago by...I want to say A-Rod, but I can't be positive...that was caught by a police officer, who then promptly handed it to a nearby kid. And I don't mean the police officer "caught" the ball in the sense that it came into the stands, rolled under a few seats, and the police officer was the one who came up with it. I mean he caught it.
A home run ball. Hit by A-Rod (I'm pretty sure). Caught. And given away.
Like I said, I don't get it. I mean, if you've paid to attend a baseball game, you're clearly a fan. So why wouldn't you want the ultimate fan souvenir? And while possessing a game ball won't exactly make you a member of a super exclusive club, it's still something the vast majority of fans will never get.
Remember a few years ago when some jackass all but trampled a kid in order to retrieve a ball that had come into the stands at a Rangers game? It became a really big story as the clip was played over and over, and America collectively decided that the guy was a piece of shit, and that the kid deserved to be showered with gifts. I wonder if maybe that helped result in a culture where it's somehow considered selfish to keep a ball if there's a kid in the general vicinity who might want it.
For the record, though? If I ever catch a ball? I'm keeping it. I'm keeping it. I'm not saying I'm going to scramble around for it like an animal or shove little kids out of my way or anything. I'd be perfectly okay not getting it. I'm just saying that if I happen to be in the right place at the right time and catch it, or the scrum fighting over it happens to send it rolling towards my feet, I'm keeping it. I don't care how cute your kid is. I'm keeping it. And I'm going to buy a nice little display stand for it, and should the opportunity ever present itself, get it signed by the player who hit it. I'm. Keeping. It.
Before anyone condemns this, though, consider this: Why would a kid even want a ball he didn't catch? Sure, he'd be all excited at first, but once he gets home, you know that thing is going to be tossed wherever and forgotten about. It would just be a totally meaningless trinket. There'd be no story behind it, and thus, it would have no more sentimental value than any random ball you can buy at Modell's for $5.
"I caught this ball at a baseball game I went to when I was a kid." That's a story.
"My dad caught this ball, and gave it to me." That's a story.
"Some dude sitting a couple of rows ahead of us caught it and gave it to me. I don't even remember it happening, because I was fucking five." That's not a story.
So if you should happen to catch a baseball, do yourself--and the rest of us who want to keep our balls, guilt-free--a favor, and hang onto it.
I mean, if you really, honest-to-God don't give a shit about the ball, go ahead and do whatever you want with it. I'm not sure what you were even doing at the ballpark if that's the case, but whatever. It's your ball. But if you suspect that ball might hold even a sliver of sentimental value, or even just look cool sitting up on your mantle, don't let peer pressure from those sitting nearby convince you that you're obligated to give it away. It's yours. You earned it.
And if some kid tries to convince you otherwise by giving you the puppy dog eyes, I say go ahead and wave the ball in his face and taunt him with it a little. Because it's never too early to teach a child that it's a tough world out there and no one gives you anything for free.