I have been to countless live sporting events dating back to when I was 5 years old. I never, ever caught a homer, a foul ball, a ball thrown into the stands. or even a hot dog fired into the crowd. I’ve never caught a puck that went over the glass or had an NBA player fall into my lap trying to keep the ball in bounds, and I’ve never been anywhere near the drumsticks and guitar picks thrown into the crowd at the end of a concert.
I couldn’t even imagine catching a ball at a game. In fact, it just seems really stressful. Where do I keep it? I’m assuming that I’m wearing shorts because it’s July, which means I can’t throw it in a pocket because I have my wallet, keys, and phone in there. If I’m wearing jeans, because maybe it’s a brisk night, I have even less pocket room. Do I have to go buy a t-shirt or something so I can carry it in a bag? What happens if I have to pee, do I have to bring a baseball into the men’s room with me? What if I want to walk over to Xfinity afterwards? Now I have this additional thing I have to keep track of and worry about for the next few hours. What do I do with it when I get home? Do I display it? Where? Do I have to buy one of those plastic cubes for it? If I move, what box does it go in? Is it valuable or do I put it in with the other assorted junk? Who needs this kind of hassle? Just writing all of this is giving me a panic attack – I’d rather just have the ball hit me in the temple and kill me instantly than have to deal with all of that.
But despite my lack of actually catching anything (other than the time I got pneumonia from sitting in the rain), I’ve learned something from going to so many games – if you’re an adult, you don’t need to go out of your way to catch a foul ball. If you snag one coming right at you, that’s awesome, now give it to a kid. Why? Because YOU ARE AN ADULT. You have reached a stage in your life you should have the ability to form positive memories and enjoy yourself in situations where you aren’t directly given something. Take a selfie and be happy.
If “You are an adult” isn’t good enough for you, here are other reasons you should give a ball to the nearest kid:
1. Taking kids anywhere is a nightmare.
His or her parents can’t really enjoy the game because they’re essentially unpaid interns (great exposure, though) who have to constantly work as food servers, bathroom escorts, and merchandise storage systems for 9 innings. Giving your foul ball to the kid gives the parents a break, the kid will be so mesmerized that he/she will probably sit in silence for a while – bringing the parents a few moments of peace for the first time in years. Also, now they aren’t on the hook for hundreds of dollars of merchandise on the way out. The kid has a foul ball, that’s better than anything. Those parents will always remember you, and your name will be a blessing in their household forever.
2. It’s gonna get a whole lot worse for them than it is for you.
Figure the kid has probably 5-10 years of being happy and seeing wonder in the world before they get completely beaten into the ground by life. You’ve gone through it already and have, for better or worse, come out on the other side. The memory of the nice stranger who gave him a foul ball at the Phillies game may be very helpful to him when he’s getting roasted by his whole Social Studies class for his voice cracking during his report on Tanzania.
3. You’re at the game because you like baseball.
You’re old enough where you don’t have to go to things you dislike, and nothing at this point will change this. But maybe the kid a few rows back is at their first game and doesn’t really know what they like. They may not understand the game, know any of the players, or get the point of cheering or booing. Tossing them a foul ball may kickstart their fandom, creating a lifelong fan or potentially a future player. A young kid who remembers his/her first baseball game as “the time a mean man took the baseball away from me” is a kid who’s not going to grow up liking the game.
As facts are coming out of the recent fan situation in Chicago, Twitter has been aflame in arguments about the circumstances. Is it okay for an adult to take a ball away from a kid if that kid already got a ball? What if you take it away from one kid to throw it to another kid? Is it EVER acceptable for an adult to keep a ball?
Since I’m a man of the people, I’ve taken the liberty to compile this handy guide of situations in which it is OK for you, as an adult, to keep a ball for yourself or take one away from a child:
1. Your family has been taken hostage.
The kidnappers have one very specific demand: a game used ball from today’s Phillies game. You can’t fake it and go buy a ball from a sporting goods store, they’ll know. In this case, it is appropriate to do whatever it takes to get a ball, including being the annoying guy that yells things like “RHYS RHYS RHYS OVER HERE” after a flyout, running around a whole section like a lunatic during batting practice, or even ripping a ball from an innocent child’s hands.
2. You are a method actor
You’ve just been cast in the role of “a giant asshole.” By all means, get in character and perfect your craft.
3. You have brought your girlfriend to the game and have created the perfect proposal
The batter, pitcher, umpire, and everyone in your section knows that you have hidden your great-grandmother’s engagement ring inside of a specific flip-top baseball. At the agreed upon time, it will be fouled right to you. You cannot allow a kid to gum up the works on this. Your grandmother did not smuggle that ring out of Russia during the revolution for some random kid to take it. Do whatever it takes to get that ball.
4. You are a hardened ex-con with a heart of gold
You’ve just been released from prison and are attending your first game in 25 years. While he’s only 10 years old, the kid sitting in front of you reminds you of yourself. In him you see the same potential, but the same poor decision making that led to you stabbing your mailman. As the ball heads right towards him, you stop and wonder, what if someone had gotten to you at that young age and warned you about your choices – what if someone taught you that sometimes you couldn’t get what you wanted, and that the only way to succeed was to do it honestly. You reach out and catch the ball, and that child learns a valuable lesson about success and failure. That child’s name? Steve Jobs.
5. Your time machine has malfunctioned
Instead of sending you back in time, a 7 year old Adolf Hitler has been pulled through the slipstream and deposited at the game. You don’t let Kid Hitler catch a foul ball. You just don’t.
I hope this clears up any confusion you may have. If you find yourself in a position to catch a foul ball, or you see a kid in front of you drops a foul ball that rolls to where you can reach it, please remember: Much like Wu-Tang, Foul Balls are for the children.
FanSince09 is a former recipient of the prestigious Philadelphia Pen and Pencil Club Award (This is true; this is actually a thing that happened) and Takesman Emeritus of Phillies Front Office. He can be yelled at on twitter @FanSince09