In my opinion, Baseball is one of the best sports to view live. Millions of baseball fans flock to Little League® ball fields, AAU tournaments, local high school and college games, and of course, to see their favorite Major League Baseball teams play. Some fans are just casual fans, maybe on a date or out with the family for the day. While others keep score during the game, know every hitter, every pitcher’s best pitch, and who won the 1967 World Series between the Red Sox and the Cardinals (Cardinals won, unfortunately). But whether you are a casual fan or an obsessed fan (like myself), there is equal opportunity for every single person at a baseball game for the thrill of a lifetime – to catch a game ball.
According to most websites I researched, a baseball is composed of “a rubber or cork center” and then “wrapped in yarn” and covered in two strips of “cowhide or horsehide” and then “tightly stitched together.” Depending on the manufacturer, the cost of making a baseball is minimal. Baseballs cost just a few bucks in any retail store and you can get officially licensed Major League Baseballs for less than $20 on popular online sporting goods stores. You can even buy baseballs in bulk in buckets!!! So baseballs are readily accessible to the general public for a very inexpensive price.
So why is it that every game I attend – Little League®, New England Collegiate Baseball League, Cape Cod League, Pawtucket Red Sox – every fan treats the game day baseball as if it is GOLD? Well, because it is the ultimate fan experience. Catching a baseball, whether it be a foul ball, ground rule double, or home run is the thrill of a lifetime for any fan – casual or obsessed. Watch it for yourself. A right handed batter fouls off a tough pitch into the first base grandstand seats. The fans seated in that section, who previous to this at bat were chatting friendly about their kids or work or their vacation to Vermont suddenly turn into adventurous, baseball hungry fans who will stop at NOTHING to get that baseball. Fans diving over seats, Dads jumping over their kids, a few elbows – okay that’s not quite accurate. But still, watch any game and any foul ball and see the fan reaction. The game ball to the fan is a opportunity to connect with the players on the field.
If for some brief moment, you have the great fortune of catching a game ball – a home run or a foul ball – you have accomplished something. Out of all the fans attending your game, and the number maybe in the tens of thousands, you were the one who tracked down the game day baseball. You have it in your hands, you check out the mark the bat made hitting the baseball, you look at the logo, the stitches, and think to yourself “wow, this is a special moment. Let me get my camera out and post this on social media. I caught a BALL!!!” And yes, you should feel special. For everyone around you looks at you as a celebrity, for a few seconds. You did it, you were able to experience a fan’s thrill of a lifetime by catching or retrieving a baseball hit during a baseball game.
And then, the moment is over. Another foul ball has been hit and your competition (the rest of your seating section) is now chasing that dream of obtaining a baseball. And there it is, another fan has grabbed a baseball hit foul and she is now being congratulated, and is photographing her moment for social media. But, you had your moment as a fan and you can bring home that baseball to show your family your accomplishment. And place that baseball on your desk at work as a prompt for your co-workers to ask you “Hey, where did you get that baseball?” To which you will replay the entire event from the baseball game you attended a few days past, in perfect detail and clarity because it was indeed the thrill of a lifetime to catch that baseball.
I can’t explain it from a psychological standpoint but something happens when a baseball is hit out of the playing field and into the stands. Foul balls are cherished by the casual fan to the obsessed fan. A home run baseball, forget it, fans will stop at nothing to get one of those. And a memorable home run baseball, wow, you may see some incredible acrobatics by fans to get their hands on that baseball. Whether it is a local Little League® game with a hundred fans or a professional game with tens of thousands of fans, having a foul ball or home run baseball to take home as a souvenir is the most incredible baseball experience. It is a reminder of how special baseball is as a sport and I absolutely cherish every single baseball myself and my kids have been lucky enough to catch at various games.