I am 58 years old and have attended hundreds of baseball games in my life, but I have never caught a foul ball. I’ve come close several times — like, two seats away — but I just don’t seem to be a ball magnet. When I was a kid, I’d bring my glove to the game, certain that I’d snag any balls that came my way, but I never got the chance to use it. At some point I stopped bringing the glove — in part because I felt like I’d gotten too old to keep doing that, but also because I’d accepted the sad reality that no balls were likely to be hit in my direction.
Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve seen two recent articles — one by Toronto Star writer Murtz Jaffer and another by Philly-based sportswriter Mitch Nathanson — about how an adult who catches a foul ball should not have to give it to a kid. More specifically, Jaffer and Nathanson both said that the next time they catch a ball, they’re keeping it.
A bit of context here: I’m not sure when it became a standard thing to give a foul ball to a random kid. It definitely wasn’t the way things worked when I was a kid, but I’m vaguely aware that it has become the norm in recent years. I’m also vaguely aware that the crowd will sometimes attempt to shame adults who violate this new protocol, either by booing or by chanting something like “Give it to the kid!” (although I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed that myself, so maybe I’ve just read about it).
Jaffer and Nathanson have their own reasons for refusing to give up a foul ball — Jaffer because, like me, he’s never caught one, and Nathanson because of what seems like sheer contrarianism. In any case, I’m with them on the broad strokes, if not necessarily on the fine details: If and when I finally catch a foul ball, I’m keeping it.
I should stress here that I’m referring to a ball that was hit by a player (not lobbed by a coach or ballboy), during the game (not during batting practice), and caught or at least touched by me on the fly (not retrieved from under a nearby seat). If the ball fails to meet those three criteria, I’ll be happy to surrender it to the nearest snot-nosed tyke.
But if I can check off all three of those boxes, that ball’s coming home with me, no matter how much booing I have to endure. Here’s why:
- Come on — I’ve been waiting my whole life to catch a foul ball, so I want to keep it! Yes, I realize it’s a silly thing to prioritize, but it’s a longtime itch that I still need to scratch. Once I finally catch one, maybe I’ll give away the next one, but the first one will be all mine.
- The ballpark is where we all get to feel nostalgic and eternally young. Give the ball to a kid? Hell, at the ballpark I’m like a kid! I’d get a kick out of catching a foul ball the same way I still get a kick from eating ice cream out of a helmet cup.
- When I was, say, 10 years old, would I have liked getting a foul ball from a random grown-up? Maybe — it would’ve been interesting to see a real big league baseball — but I suspect there would’ve been something unsatisfying about having a foul ball given to me instead of getting to catch one myself. It’s not as exciting, not as good a story. If someone had offered me a ball, I’m sure I wouldn’t have turned it down, but I’d like to think that some part of me would’ve found the experience a bit inauthentic, like losing your virginity to a hooker instead of to a romantic partner (although I probably wouldn’t have used that particular metaphor as a 10-year-old).
(As an aside: Just as I went to the ballpark 50 years ago thinking, “I hope I catch a foul ball today!,” are today’s kids thinking, “I hope a grown-up catches a foul ball and gives it to me”? That’s kind of a weird thing to imagine.)
So that’s why I’ll be keeping that foul ball, if I’m ever lucky enough to snag one. But that’s just me — what about you folks? What do you think of all this?
I think “give it to the girl” is also an accepted resolution. So my plan is always to give it to my wife who will ensure I get to keep it.
Interesting topic. My wife and I had a long discussion about this at the last game we attended. We got a sitter for our daughters and we went to a game in Atlanta. We sat in the “home run porch” section and my wife spent the entire game terrified that she would get hit with a home run ball. I told her that if one came nearby I’d snag it and give it to the kid in the row in front of us. My wife was appalled. “You have two daughters at home that would love that and you’re going to give it to a random kid in a Mets jersey??” I had never thought of it like that, so I’m with you now Paul. If I catch a ball I’m keeping it!
Why does it matter if the ball is touched or not on the fly? Explain this part more if you don’t mind.
Because then it feels like it was hit right to me — I had it first. So if I end up with it, I feel like it is justifiably mine.
If it bounces off of someone else’s chest (or whatever), or if it just ends up underneath a nearby seat, that seems less like it was “meant for me.”
YMMV and all that.
I’m with you, Paul. Makes all the sense in the world.
I was at a Blackhawks game at the old Stadium in the early 90s and somehow we had scored some nice seats in the lower level, west end right behind the goal and about halfway up. This was long before protective netting was a thing.
At one point in the 1st period a slapshot was deflected and came flying over the glass, where it struck the forehead of a guy who was 2 seats to my right. The puck rolled to my feet and I picked it up. The thought of keeping it lasted for all of 3 seconds when I looked over and saw the blood gushing from this guy’s noggin. Security was already coming down the aisle with some towels as I leaned over and handed him the puck. “You earned it”. He walked up to the tunnel clutching a towel to his head while holding the puck up high in his other hand.
He did not return to watch the rest of the game.
Saw something similar at Wrigley Field a couple years ago.
A foul ball hit a woman in the shoulder/chest, knocking her down.
The ball ricocheted off her several rows back where a guy made an impressive barehanded catch of the ball without ever letter it hit the ground.
Sercurity & medical staff instantly surrounded the woman to she is she was ok.
She seemed alright, just understandably frazzled.
The guy who caught the ball walked up to her as security was dissipating, and offered her the ball.
She basically smiled and waived him off–pretty sure she said something to the effect of ” I never want to see that ball again.”
I was a guy who was hit in the head by a line drive at a Rays game a few years back.
I was on the first base line and I flinched as I heard the crack of the bat and somehow knew the ball was destined to meet the crown of my head.
Long story short, I was filling out forms in my seat as Rays security sat next to me. The ball that hit my head somehow found it’s way to some kids a few rows away. They were not giving it back, nor did anyone from their group ask if I was okay. I sarcastically asked Rays staff if I could get a ball, and they said they would “see what they could do”.
I did get a ball two innings later from the Rays staff, but I wish I had the ball that met my head.
For the record that was the second time I was hit by a foul ball! I was also struck in the shoulder at a minor league game in Asheville, NC. I did not get that ball either!
At the University of New Orleans circa 2002, their foul balls were redeemable for a free cheeseburger. So I absolutely chased foul balls down the right field line as a teen. One time I snagged seven! Fed my family at the park and kept one to play catch. I surely wouldn’t chase those balls today, been there done that.
Tossups, I could probably give that away. Especially if it’s obvious the player was trying to toss it to a kid but I caught it off a deflection or out of my instinct to catch it myself or something.
Foul ball, if it’s an awesome catch I made, or if it’s years from now and I bring my kid to the game, I’m probably keeping it myself. But if the story feels better by giving it to a kid, yeah I could do that. Just hope it’s nobody’s no hitter or anything!
I assume the tossed balls are always meant for kids, I wouldn’t even try to catch those, but if one did somehow get to me, I’d try to get it to the intended kid.
Before a Mets – Yankees game at Yankee Stadium, I saw a VERY small kid trying to get John Franco to throw him a ball. Now I was not this boy’s father or even related to him, but I knew if he tried to catch the ball he’d get hurt. I called to Franco “Throw it to me. I absolutely swear I’ll give it to him.” Franco tossed me the ball, and, as promised, I placed it in the boy’s hands. Franco then asked me if I wanted a ball. I waved him off.
For whatever reason, he remembered the incident years later when I reminded him of it at a meet-and-greet.
I believe there’s a difference between a foul ball, and home run ball. Keep the HR ball, but give the foul ball to a kid and take a pic of yourself with it for proof before handing it over if you’d like. A HR is one of those things you can talk about – at least for a while. You can brag like: “Remember that HR Buddy Biancalana hit against the A’s? That’s the Ball!”. You can’t do the same with a foul ball: “Remember that foul ball Mark Salas hit on that 1-1 count in the 4th inning? That’s the ball!”
See, I grew up going to games at Shea Stadium, where there were almost no seats in fair territory, so catching a home run ball was such a rarity that it never even occurred to me. It was all about foul balls, not HR balls.
I grew up in the Metrodome (ugh), and was able to catch two HR’s (no foul balls) over the years. One was a Torii Hunter from a mid-week day game against the Royals. My 2 year old daughter was with me and I tried to give the ball to her, but she wanted nothing to do it at that time – I’ve tried to give it to her several times over the last 19 years since but she still doesn’t want it – so in a sense, I guess I kept that one. The other one was a Miguel Tejada HR on Opening Day in 2007, and you mentioned pressure from the crowd… I got caught up in that. I was surrounded by by 7,000 Twins fans screaming at me to throw it back, so I did. I regret that one.
I would keep it, as long as it was hit to me, i would not fight a kid for a ball on the ground. I’m 51 y/o and never has caught a ball. Garry Maddox hit a pop-up foul ball in the row in front of me in Wrigley in 1984. That’s the closest i’ve been to one. I would like to redeem myself one day.
You have every right to keep a ball you catch. I’ve never noticed any pressure to make an adult give a ball to a kid at a major league game I attended, but I know with 100% certainty I would not acquiescence if I caught one and heckling ensued.
I feel like this stems from a handful of videos in the last decade of people knocking over kids to get balls. I’m sure the ratio is small, but I would think the “shame” comes from not wanting to be lumped in with “those guys.” I’ve never caught a ball myself, but now I have kids to take with me, so I can launder it through them until I get home ;)
I concur with this view.
I don’t ever remember thinking, when I was a kid, if an adult got the ball, they have to give it to me.
I got many balls when I was a kid at my local minor league games, never caught any though, they’d always be on the bounce or rolling, etc.
Closest one has come to me at an MLB game was last year at Fenway – a liner behind the plate that the guy 2-rows back, 2-3 seats over got – hit right into his belly. No one pressured him to give it to a kid.
I do think about if I ever get one, what would I do?
I’m definitely in the “if I catch a foul ball, I’ll give it to a kid if there’s one near me” camp, but also the “booing someone for not doing that is a dick move; mind your own business” camp.
I have the benefit of being a dad to a 7 year old, so there’s almost a 100% chance she’s coming with me to the ballpark and if I catch a ball, naturally I’m giving it to her.
Giving it to a kid is kind of the tradition, but I don’t think there’s necessarily anything *wrong* with keeping it for yourself.
Once I became a dad this all became academic. There’s no conflict anymore. I’m either with my kid at the game and she gets it, or I bring it home to her.
This has always been my policy. I caught my first home run ball as an adult (Jayson Werth, Citizens Bank Park) and the ball went to my kids. Second was a Bryce Harper, went to my nephew. At this point, I would probably give a ball to a kid but I don’t feel obligated. Somewhere in our society, it changed. When I was a kid, strangers felt no compulsion to give a random kid a ball. Now, there is unnecessary peer pressure. I don’t owe your kid anything. I’m not going to shove a kid out of the way for a ball but if it comes to me, it is mine and I will give it to one of my kids.
After more than 20 years of attending baseball games, I finally caught a foul ball. The crowd then told me to give it to a kid. I denied the requests, saying I’ve been waiting 20 years for this. I don’t know what I liked better, catching the foul ball or the boos from the crowd around me.
I’m 42, have been to countless games as well, and never caught a ball. The good thing for the time-being is my son usually goes with me so I can give it to him.
On the flip side – My younger brother, probably 25 years ago, at a Reds-Indians game in Cleveland with my dad, my uncle, and my cousin. My little brother caught a BP ball early in the game. Later in the game, the Indians hit a HR that he also caught. But he’s a Reds fan. He didn’t want the HR ball from an Indians hitter so he gave it to my uncle who was an Indians fan. A kid gave it to an adult!
I think you touch on an important distinction here. If an adult wants to give the ball to a kid he’s at the game with, or in your brother’s case, the kid wants to give it to an adult that he’s there with, that’s fine. Giving it to a random kid (or adult) because other random people feel the need to dictate what you should do is an entirely different proposition.
I was at a minor league game about 15 years ago and witnessed a kid try and catch a foul ball, but instead get smacked in the chest by it. The ball wound up rolling to a guy a few seats away. It seemed pretty clear in that situation that the guy should’ve given it to the kid, but that’s kind of the only scenario to me where you shouldn’t keep a foul ball. (Or frankly, should even want to keep a foul ball.)
So did the guy keep it or give it to the kid?
He kept it. The fact that he kept it while the kid was one row in front of him in pain really solidified my belief that she should’ve given it up.
Been going to games for 50-plus years and have never caught a foul ball. Catching one would make my day. Giving it to a kid might make their day and maybe, just maybe, change their life in a positive way. Win, win.
Sitting through a baseball game seems like punishment enough. Having balls hit your direction and having to defend yourself is over the top!
Also, love the hooker metaphor!
I have never caught a foul bowl. If I did I would keep it unless I was with a kid I knew (my fiancee’s great niece or nephew and in the future my granddaughter). In 1982 then girlfriend was hit by a batting practice home rum at Fenway (Yes it hurt.). Despite my failed attempt to catch the ball she let me keep it (The ball ended up on my seat as I had stood up for my catch attempt.).
I snagged a ball thrown to me by Rafael Furcal at a Reds/Atlanta game. The DNA of that ball was Tom Glavine, to Ken Griffey, Jr, who hit it to Rafael Furcal, who touched 2nd for a force out/3rd out of the inning. As he entered the dugout, he tossed it into the crowd and I grabbed it on the fly. It was a pearl. And it’s in a drawer with a dozen foul balls I’ve grabbed at minor league games. I have plenty of foul balls. So now when/if I get a foul ball (I have season tix at minor league Gwinnett Stripers), I’ll give it to the youngest kid I see.
I would not give it up for the very reasons you list, Paul. (I also love to eat ice cream out of a helmet cup.) It’s unlikely I’d ever catch one anyway because my response to a foul ball in my vicinity is to duck and cover.
About ten years ago my wife and I were sitting down the left field line at Minute Maid Park when Pirates catcher Chris Snyder hit a foul ball like a rocket which deflected off the edge of the empty seat across the aisle and hit my wife above her ankle. (the Astros’ casual response to her distress is a story for another time). I ended up with the baseball, the first one I’ve nabbed in over 60 years of attending games. I gave it to a kid sitting a row or two behind us but later wished I’d kept it. It would have been a nice conversation piece.
It I had grabbed a home run ball, especially off the bat of a player on my team (the Orioles) or a big name player, I’d likely keep it. In any other circumstance I’d pass it to a kid.
Oh, and throwing homers back on the field was a cute idea way back when it started at Wrigley (?) but it’s played out now.
If I’m ever lucky enough to catch a foul ball again, I’m going to dramatically given everyone high fives while running out to go get a drink. Don’t give anyone a chance to ask for the ball! Who would interrupt a guy having that much fun?
I still vividly remember catching a ball fouled off when Smoltz was pitching. It was a prized possession of my childhood.
I’ve gotten two foul balls but neither that really counts as “catching” so no, pretty much no chance I’ll give it to a kid. One when I was in college rolling around in a mostly empty section behind home plate at Three Rivers – that I got autographed by Sid Bream who happened to be sitting a couple rows away. Another that went through my hands and landed in the empty seat next to me at another game.
I have given one away – that I walked down about 10 rows in a minor league park and picked up. So yeah who cares, that was like picking a quarter up off the sidewalk. I did ignore the kids who started jumping up with their hands out though and handed it to a random preschooler just sitting in a seat.
I’d find security for the random idiot trying to “shame” me or the idiot parent trying to demand it.
there are a few things at play here:
1) there’s a difference between an adult catching a foul ball fair and square and a kid asking for it vs. an adult in a scrum with children over a foul ball. i’ve seen videos of the latter. its a bad look. don’t do that, let the kid have the ball.
2) say you’re sitting in front of a 6 year old kid with a glove. a high pop up is headed the general vicinity of you both. who do you think has the advantage there? not the kid who may be 4 feet tall at best. kind of a dick move to stand up in front of him, snag it, and be like “sorry short stack, maybe next time”.
3) parenting matters. if i brought my kids to a game and someone a few seats away caught a ball, i would be absolutely appalled if one of my boys went up to him/her to ask for the ball. that’s a dick move on the kid’s part, because he knows how to manipulate the situation. and if there are parents who actively tell their kids to go ask for the ball, that’s even worse!
there’s a lot of gray space in situations. for me personally, if i caught a ball and i was next to a kid, i’d give it to him or her. its just a ball, and i’d still have the story about catching it.
I too have never caught a foul ball but 19 year old me caught a football from Reggie Roby during pregame warmups during a Saints/Dolphins preseason game in Baltimore in 1992.
After much haggling, I did have to give the ball back to the Dolphins but it was exchanged for another regulation ball, complete with chalk on the nose. (I didn’t want to deprive Reggie of his favorite ball.)
I woulda demanded Roby’s wristwatch!
I wholeheartedly agree, even though I must shamefully admit that I was part of many “Give it to a kid!” chants at the college hockey games I attended. I too have never had a foul ball come my way, and if I ever catch one, the only kids in consideration for that prize will be the three that I bring with me to every game.
I would say the idea behind giving it to the kid is that the kid is going to value it more than an adult would. Now if any adult is going to cherish the foul ball they got at a game, by all means keep it.
I would also agree that how one gets the ball is part of the equation. If you actually catch it, then as an adult you might see more value in holding on to it as a keepsake than were it to land near you and bounce to you. And at the same time the memory of catching a foul ball might be enough for you, without keeping the ball, and you could give it to a kid near you.
I would also suggest the catching vs simply getting a ball applies to kids too. Surely the kid is going to find a ball caught far more memorable than one gotten through other means. That said, in the end I tend to think a child is going to treasure the physical ball more, and given how we look back fondly on things from our childhood, even treasure it more when they become an adult, than the adult who got it ever would.
I guess it depends on how much you value stuff. I likewise have never caught a foul ball. If I did I’d be pretty excited, but at the same time if there was a kid next to me I’d be just fine turning the ball over to them. I’d always fondly remember catching the ball, and physically having it would just be something that was collecting dust somewhere in my house. I don’t think the fond memory of catching it would be improved still having the ball in my possession. And if anything I’d pleasantly remember that I made some kid’s day by giving them the ball after I caught it.
To me the ball doesn’t matter. It’s gonna go home and collect dust and eventually someone will throw it away.
It’s the memory (or the story) that you’ll cherish. Giving it to a kid doubles the memories/story.
(I’m not a baseball fan but getting a puck at a hockey game is essentially the same deal so my comments are based in that line of thinking. )
I agree that if you catch it you keep it. No guilt. Where I’ve seen it differently is when it’s a loose ball situation and some middle age dude out-wrestles an 8 year old for the ball. I was at a Reds game as a kid and saw an adult intentionally step on a child’s hand when he reached for the ball and then celebrate like he made a diving catch in the World Series.
I’ve personally witnessed more social pressure by fans to throw a home run ball hit by a visiting player back onto the field. Which I regard as one of the most risibly nonsensical, nigh immoral, customs in all of American society. That way lies anarchy, the abyss staring back at us. As for me, if I ever catch a batted ball, I’m handing it directly to my wife with a kiss, like it’s a gift to her. Boo that, jerks. (It will not in fact be a gift to her; she couldn’t care less about having or keeping a baseball.) Though one time, as a young adult just out of college, I took my teenage brother to a Cubs game at Wrigley, and I won a prize package. I called dibs a tiny jar of Wrigley infield dirt to keep and gave my brother the rest of the gift bag – hat, t-shirt, cards, a pennant, I don’t even remember what all else. Kid held a grudge for years that I’d withheld that one souvenir. I’m sure that experience informs my basic “catch your own ball, kid” feelings on the batted-ball matter.
And yet ironically I now have a greater wish than catching a batted baseball: Catching a kicked-out-of-play soccer ball. Which one is obliged to throw back, because there’re only a handful of game balls and so they need to keep the ones they have in play. Catch, get a photo, throw it back.
Glad to hear the Ticker is being moved back to top-of-page visibility. As a design matter, I’d want the homepage priority to be pinned article, most recent non-Ticker article, most recent Ticker, then everything below that in chronological order from most to least recent. If no pin, then the most recent Ticker is always in the no. 2 spot, where I think most readers will expect to see it.
Be careful with the soccer balls behind goal! David Beckham (when he was playing for LA Galaxy) tried for the upper corner, missed, and dislocated my pinky. I still have the X rays to show for it.
I hope the pain was a reasonable price to pay for the great story! My local team only has in-threat stands behind one of the goals, and it’s an all-standing section, so I’m always on the side near midfield. When a ball reaches near our seats, it’s usually been rainbowed and is coming as much down as forward.
I had this very same conversation with myself this weekend at a minor league game. It was a AA game and pretty much every seat was in foul ball range. A couple landed close by but did really take some time to think about what I’d do with a ball if I ended up with one.
I’ve been attending games since 1977 and also have not caught a foul ball. Been close a couple times. I hope it happens when I’m there with our 11-year-old son. I can just give it to him. But he’s more of an auto racing fan – no foul balls there.
So each time I go to a game I scan the seats around me to see how many kids are close by. Selfishly I hope the answer is none because I really want to keep that foul ball.
I’m 43 and after dozens upon dozens of games attended I’ve never even come close to catching a foul ball…despite my attempts to research the best places to sit for such things. Despite this, every time I’m at the park I imagine what it would be like to make a stellar grab and impress everybody around me. After thoroughly impressing a stadium full of people with my foul ball catching prowess however, I have no need for the ball. I have enough junk sitting on shelves. In my head I always identify a nearby child that will receive the ball should I catch one…they need to be old enough to understand the importance of the ball, but not so old that they are likely more skilled than I am at catching said ball.
I’m with you because of point two: there is a childlike thrill from getting a foul ball. I’m keeping it unless my kids are with me (and maybe not even then; they are 20 and 24).
It’s sort of like the way we should (though some don’t) deal with mask wearing where they are not required: we respect your choice either way.
What about putting a link to the day’s Ticker at the bottom of that day’s lede? This way the Ticker and the lede can still be their own separate pages, but the link at the bottom of the lede gives a direct path from the lede to the Ticker, similar to the flow of reading we had before. And we don’t have to navigate back to the front page, find the right Ticker, and then navigate to it from there. I understand that now the Ticker and the lede are not always published at the same time, but would it be too much of a burden to go back and add the link to the Ticker in the lede when the Ticker comes online?
And as I mentioned in a comment late last night, the new format of the Ticker is a homerun!
Thumbs up to this idea. I like the ticker being its own thing, but if I can access it from the bottom of the daily story it would make things easier.
If not this then a separate navigation for the ticker, and not have it be under the posts. Such that I click the ticker link at the top of the page and it immediately takes me to that days ticker, with each previous days ticker expandable underneath? Or something similar.
In general I think the ticker being lumped into the posts navigation at the top doesn’t make much sense.
Maybe instead of a link to that day’s Ticker at the bottom of the main post of the day, which as you say might need to be added after the post is published, there could be a link to the Tickers page where they are all listed. That sort of link could be permanent at the end of posts and wouldn’t need to be updated when a new Ticker is published.
I’ve caught one foul ball in my life, at a single-A game I didn’t particularly care about. (Although, incidentally, that game is the only time I’ve seen a walk-off homer in person.) I gave it to a kid. I did so almost unconsciously – I flipped it to the kid almost before I’d even realized I’d caught it – but I’m glad I did. In retrospect, it was the right move, because what would I have done with the ball? Best case scenario, it would have sat on a shelf, and maybe once every couple of months it would catch my eye and remind me that I attended a single-A game in Dayton in 2011. And I mean, I’m glad I attended that game, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not something I feel a particular need to memorialize. More likely, though, the ball gets shoved into some box and lost during a move. On the other hand, that kid is going to live it up for like a week or two at least, showing the ball to all his friends, throwing it around with his dad, etc. He got a lot more out of it than I would. Maybe the calculation changes if it had been a major league game and the hitter was a legend like Joey Votto or a player I really liked like Brandon Phillips. But I think most readers of Uni Watch are smart enough to make that calculation on the fly.
I think I’d just say I’m giving it to a kid at home and leave it at that.
Even if the “kid” is “the kid in me”.
I should add that I would only keep it if it came right at me. I would not bother going out of my way to crowd someone else out for it.
I concur. I’ve caught precisely one foul ball that ticked all 3 boxes, a nice over the shoulder catch in my (gasp! one more ignored unwritten social convention coming up) glove, thank you very much. Jerome Williams, Giants pitcher, hit this upper deck foul ball off of Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis. There was a 12 or 13yo kid a few seats away who looked at my fresh catch longingly so I offered him to hold & inspect the ball, which he gleefully did before handing it back. If anyone cast shade at me for not just giving it to him, I don’t remember because that’s nonsense. I still have that ball proudly on display. I’d prolly give up the next one…unless maybe it was hit by a likely future HOFer?
When I’m at a game and a kid is the first to a foul ball, one of my favorite heckles is to yell, “GIVE IT TO AN ADULT!”
Yeah, find someone who has been waiting longer than you have. Kids have a whole lifetime ahead to catch one.
Excellent read this morning! I’m enjoying the comments as much as the article.
Closest I’ve ever come to a foul ball was at a AAA game in Denver before the Rockies were born. Screaming line drive hit straight at us, my dad reached over and caught it right in front of my cousin’s face. Surely saved him some serious pain, then gave him the ball because “it was heading for his seat.”
As for me now, if I catch one at a minor league game I’ll give it away. Major league game, I’m keeeping it. But I live in Idaho so a major league game will also mean I’m on vacation!
The “give it to a kid” chant happens at hockey games too, at least the ones I’ve attended at Notre Dame. When a puck goes out of play into the stands, the ND student band will chant “give it to a kid” till it happens. The shaming aspect bothers me quite a bit. The puck (or ball) should go to whoever has the hand-eye coordination to snag it.
Incidentally, last season I narrowly missed being hit by a puck that came at me at a really fast clip. I’m probably lucky I didn’t get my hand on it, since that might have resulted in a broken finger or hand. If I had gotten it in that scenario, there’s no way I would give the puck up.
This happens at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) hockey games also (the “give it to a kid” chant). Although I have never caught a puck, I would probably be inclined to keep it, at least when I was younger, and going to the games and cheering on my alma mater was a bigger part of my life. My rationale in this case is that since RIT is my alma mater, I feel like I paid them enough money over the years I was in school that I wouldn’t feel guilty keeping a hockey puck that I caught. That said, I would never join into a scrum of kids that is chasing a puck that was not cleanly caught, and is bouncing around the seats.
I’m now 62 years old, and I have stories concerning the two foul balls I’ve caught:
I caught my first foul ball at Yankee Stadium in 1988. The ball was lined right at me – a clean catch. I stood up and bowed, and received a standing ovation from those around me. It just happened I was dressed entirely in red that night, and friends and family called me after the game to say that they’d seen my catch. Sadly, after the game, Yankee shortstop Andre Robertson, who’d hit the ball to me, was involved in a terrible car accident which shortened his career.
Although I’d fulfilled every baseball fan’s dream of catching a foul ball, what I REALLY wanted was a National League ball. Which leads to my second story:
I’d attended several Marlins games over the years, both at Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Land Shark/Sun Life Stadium and at Marlins/loanDepot Park. When my wife and I moved to Florida full-time in 2019, she finally went with me to loanDepot Park, where the Marlins were playing the Mets. Early in the game, Curtis Granderson grounded a foul ball down the first base line. Pete Alonso, then playing in his 5th major league game, lobbed the ball over the net into the stands. Had I let the ball go – there was nobody sitting near us – it would’ve hit my wife squarely in the middle of her forehead. Instead, I reached over her and caught the ball with both hands. I’m hoping to get Alonso to autograph that ball one day.
In neither instance was I even dimly tempted to give the ball away. However, if a third ball comes my way, I might consider it.
You’re 58 years old, grow up and give the ball to a kid.
This is the right take. I can’t believe so many people here would be so desperate to hang onto a meaningless baseball. For goodness sake, we’re not even talking about a Bonds 756 HR ball…just one of a million foul balls. Give it to a kid who will cherish it/the memory! If you don’t, you’re a sad and selfish person.
My dad was… uh… thrifty. We went to one Cardinals game a year. Lutheran Night! A night when cheap seats were even cheaper. I guess that’s why I’ve never considered a foul ball in my hands to be a possibility. Anytime I’ve sat in better seats since the days of my youth, I’ve been overly paranoid about a foul ball plunking me in the head.
I was at (I still call it) Comiskey Park several years ago and some guy literally knocked over a 9-10 year old girl for a foul ball in a section between home and 1st base. He was “booed” mercilessly and was finally “persuaded” to give the ball away …. but to a boy about the same age as the young girl.
The young boy walks back to his seat next to his Mom and he immediately says something to her. She nods her head and the boy goes over to the girl and hands her the ball! Immediately, there’s a cheer from the crowd, loud enough for the batter to step out of the batter’s box and look over to see what the commotion was all about. The smiles on those two kids will stay with me forever.
But that’s not the end of the story. Apparently, a couple of ushers also saw what was going on. The next thing you know the ushers approach the kids and take them to two front row seats next to the security guard behind the home plate gate. During the next half inning changeover, the security guard gets the attention of the HP umpire – a Paul “favorite” – and they have a short conversation. The umpire then calls the boy over, reaches into his baseball pouch, and gives a game ball to the boy.
By the way, the kids were allowed to sit there for the rest of the game (kudos to the White Sox). After the game, as the HP umpire leaves the field, he stops and spends a few moments talking with both kids. Nice.
As for me, I’d give the ball away to a kid. Good karma …. and it would make a great memory for him or her.
I’m a baseball fan born and raised in a non-baseball playing country, so I never had a chance to go to a ballpark. So I don’t have any memorabilia, except for an old ball and a catcher’s mitt given to me by my wife’s uncle, who played the sport as an amateur. I don’t have any trip to the States planned, but I always thought: “If I get a ball? What would people think of me if I kept it? They wouldn’t know that I never would have the chance to get another!”
I have never caught a foul ball at an MLB game. I was at a day game at RFK when Nationals first were relocated from Montreal. Our original seats were in the sun on a scorching hot afternoon. My brother and I moved to a shady section several rows back. Wouldn’t you know, a foul ball literally bounced on the seat I vacated!
It’s hard for me to pinpoint the year/age I had a change in thought. But at this point, when I go to a game, one of the first things I do is scan my area and see if there are any kids and who I would give a ball to if I got one. I don’t care anymore. But up to that point where I had a change of heart I would have totally kept it.
But I would NEVER shame/boo someone for NOT doing this. You do you… and mind your own business.
100% agreed. You catch a foul or a HR, that ball is yours. You deserve to keep it, not some random brat who happened to be near you at the time…
When I lived in San Diego in the ‘90s I had a co-worker who told me about going to a Padres game a couple night earlier. He was sitting in the second deck and was able to get a foul ball. A few seconds later some kind appears out of nowhere and asks him for the ball, which my co-worker refused, but then the people around him starting shaming him and telling him to give the kid the ball. Being a generally nice dude, he caved in and gave it to the kid, who he said went back to his seat, which was a couple sections over, nowhere near where the ball landed.
I told him he should have told the kid no and to get bent. If it was a kid who sat in his row or the row behind or in front of him, I could see him giving the kid the ball, but not if he was at a seat where he had no chance of getting it.
I have caught a foul ball. It was a liner into the right field seats (got a nice ovation from the crowd too). Despite being at least 300 feet away and using a glove, that sumbitch stung. The kids came running up seagull-on-a-french-fry style asking for it and I told them absolutely not. So I guess, for me anyway, the general rule is:
1) Foul/HR balls from actual game action are fair game-there is so much chaos you don’t have time to check ages.
2) BP balls depends on what you prefer, but usually there is not a scrum that far ahead of game time.
3) Tossed balls at the end of an inning or from the ball boy consigned to the Siberia of the outfield corners-give it to the kids.
(I hate to hide behind anonymity, but it’s the only way to make this comment and keep my job.)
Being a professional baseball coach, I can tell you that the level of demands from both kids and their parents has gotten pretty out of hand. We always look to give a kid a foul ball if we catch one in the course of a game, but that only feeds that beast. On any given game day, I will probably be asked 100 times for a baseball, and I’m not that visible or accessible. Multiply that by every player and coach on the field, and it’s non-stop.
If we give a ball to one kid, we become villains to every other parent and kid in the area. If we roll balls back to the ball bin, we are not “ambassadors for the game.” I don’t know where the idea that a child who’s attending a game DESERVES a free game ball, but that’s the mentality that has become prevalent.
Exactly how I feel about this subject. This sense of entitlement for a baseball by parents and kids is simply horrible. You are there to watch a professional game, not primarily to catch a ball yourself. Should that happen I would always give it to a kid nearby. No kids nearby? I will throw it back or give it to an usher. If I want a baseball myself I will buy one in the team store or in a sporting goods store. Even as a kid I was not interested in catching a ball (or a puck) during a game. I was there to watch the game, very intensely. This whole catching circus (yes, I do not like the circus) was/is a huge distraction from that.
Years ago I was at an Angels game with my then-13 year old nephew. A foul ball came in our direction and I was really hoping my nephew would snag it. An adult a few seats over managed to end up with it – and no, he didn’t catch it. It dropped between the seats, there was a bit of a scrum, and my nephew was too intimidated by the older guys to try to fight for the ball. At the time, either giving balls to the nearest kid wasn’t a thing or I just wasn’t aware of it, because it never occurred to me to ask the man if he would hand the ball over to my nephew. Nephew was visiting LA for the first time and had plenty of great experiences on that trip, but my brother raised my nephew to be a baseball fan, so I think coming home with a game ball would’ve been a cool story for both my nephew and my brother.
I’ve never gotten one either, and a few years ago I probably would’ve been a lot more inclined to keep it, despite any shame I might get from the crowd. But I just moved across the country and downsized a lot of my possessions, so unless the ball was hit by a player I cared about, I’d give it to a kid nearby.
That’s the exact scenario that happened to me at a Yankee game in 1998 (maybe it was ’99). Jorge Posada hits a ball straight back to the upper deck where I was, it bounced off the concrete of the row in front of me, and and I grabbed it. A kid — maybe 8 or so — came over and asked If he could have the ball, and I said no, adding, “You wait 20 years for one of these things and see if you’d want to give it away,” or something similarly jerkish (I was a much bigger a-wipe back then).
I’m sure this kid, who’s now probably 32, still resents me to this day. But I’d do the same thing today, except without the snide rejoinder.
To clarify: I’d do the same thing today if I hadn’t gotten that ball in ’98. Now I’d just give it to the nearest kid who wanted it.
The “give the ball to the kid” caused a small bit of family strife a decade or so ago. My parents, who were in their 60s and lived in an area where the nearest 6 MLB ballparks are all about a 5 hour drive away, were in visiting so I took them to a game, along with my son. I found us seats in the left field bleachers, chosen because they were the closest I could get to reserved parking, to reduce the amount of walking. We found the section about half-full, there were plenty of empty seats around us.
Somewhere in the middle innings, the home team 3rd baseman launched a home run that landed in our section, but close to the far aisle. After hitting some empty seats, it rolled right under my father’s seat. He’d been to probably around a few dozen games in his life, and never laid a hand on a game ball before, so he was thrilled to get this one. One problem, my mom thought he should give the ball to his grandson who was sitting right next to him. He contended that he’d been waiting for this his whole life, and he should keep it. This disagreement continued long after the game was over.
Later, after my mom had passed away, my dad did give the ball, in a collectors case, to his grandson, as a memory of his grandmother and that day, as something she would have wanted.
The third foul ball I have fits a little and I was the kid (from my dad though not a random adult). Candlestick Park – ball hits my aunt in the hand and sprained her finger, my dad (who I don’t think had ever caught one before) snags it and of course keeps it. We were the ones on vacation visiting after all. He will still mention that to her 30+ years later.
Family part 2 with it – the ball was hit by a 2nd baseman named Johnnie LeMaster who happened to live next door to my aunt. Next morning 10 or 11 year old me knocks on his door and gets it autographed. To just me … not my sister or brother too. I mean what were we going to do? Saw it in three in the future? Still sits next to my other in-person autographed balls.
Paul, I agree with you 100 percent. I’m not against giving a ball to a kid, but I am appalled by the entitlement and rudeness of many young fans at games. I went to a minor league game last week, and the same kids kept coming down to the dugout DURING the game to ask players for a ball. The players ignored the kids, as they should during the game. As one kid left after the final out, he yelled out, “I hate every player on both teams.”
When I was a kid, I always hoped to get a ball. But to this day, I never have. As a kid, I also never asked an adult for the ball they caught. Why should I have it? I didn’t catch it. If I were to get a ball now, I’m keeping it. I mean it would either go to my child or my wife, but it’s staying with me and my people.
I have caught one foul ball from a game in my 50 years and I still have it. During my senior year of high school and it got me on the Jumbotron at Three Rivers as well as tv. A big deal for a rural kid. A memory I still share with my friends.
Furthermore, I’ve caught two ball during batting practice one gloved and the other barehanded. Both were screamers from lefties along the 1st base stands. I have both of them. The Cearfoss Rule is if you catch it, she’s coming home with you. If not, make someone smile.
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I decided years ago to say “I have to give this to my kid when I get home,” and I said that before I even had a kid. Still waiting for one.
I agree with every word of this! If I catch a ball, I’m not giving it up. And I also don’t think getting a ball handed to me as a kid would have meant that much to me, either.
Incidentally, I caught a ball at a minor league game once. Stuck my hand up in the air and it practically glued itself to my palm. Didn’t even have to stand up! Afterwards, I sat there trying to draw as little attention to myself as possible and not make eye contact with anyone to avoid being coerced into giving it away.
I’ve never caught one at a major league game though. Hopefully someday!
About 20 years ago I was at a Winnipeg Goldeyes game sitting 10 or 15 rows up by the first base bag, with a tunnel and protective railing to my immediate left. I was chatting with my buddy, seated to my right, so I was facing away from the play when I heard the crack of the bat. My buddy alerted me that “Here comes one”. I turned and spotted the ball immediately. It was indeed coming my way but slightly to my left and heading into the tunnel. I reached over the railing next to me and the ball hit in the palm of my hand. Sadly, it didn’t stick and it fell into the tunnel where some fans were gathered awaiting a between innings event they were going to participate in. I called down to the guy that picked up the ball saying “I earned that one” and he handed it up to me. I almost wish I hadn’t called down to him because every time I look at, or even think of, that ball, I regret that I didn’t complete what would have been a pretty good over the railing catch.
The only time I ever picked up a loose foul ball in the stands I gave it to a kid.
I am 32 but have too never caught a foul ball or one at all for that matter. I had already decided a couple years ago that if I get a foul ball I am keeping it because I have been waiting 32 years for one.
My random, unsolicited thoughts on foul balls, as they pertain to ME…
I am 56, have been going to baseball games since 1980, when my family moved from Iowa to the SF Bay Area.
I also have never gotten a foul ball (or any other way, HR, batting practice, ball tossed to me, etc…).
The first ball I get, I am keeping for sure. Do I *need* it? Or collect them? Or even know exactly what I’d do with it? No to all. But I keeping it, period. No amount of chanting or chastising will change that. And no way I would ever steamroll a kid or snatch it out of their hands or otherwise be mean about it. But its mine.
After that, its on a case-by-case basis. If its somehow significant to me personally, I will go ahead and keep it. But if its just a foul ball, I am happy to give it away. Altho as I sit here and think about it, my inclination would be to give it to a granny more than a kid, but whatever.
When and if I ever get to give away a ball, it most certainly will not be to any kid (or anyone else) that sticks their glove or hand in my face for it. Thats lame & tacky, IMO.
Finally I would never give an adult a hard time about not giving a foul ball away (how could I?), but 100% believe in giving a hard time to any adult that is a jerk about going after a ball, like hip checks, taking it from someone elses hand, stuff like that.
Anyways, the next time I go to a Giants game, maybe I’ll try to sit where the foul balls land, now I want a ball!
How does moderation work?
I have my first comment of the day still awaiting moderation after an hour and a half, but two other comments I made afterwards (apparently) published right away.
I, too, have never caught a foul ball or home run. I would have loved to at some point and cherished the souvenir. As I reach 50, though, I’m less inclined to memorabilia cluttering up my house. I have enough stashed away in the basement that doesn’t see the light of day.
If I did catch one and there was a youngster who might have had a chance to snag it, if not for all the ball hawking adults around, I’d be inclined to give it up. The main reason being it might end up being a great memory for the kid; maybe make their attachment to the game a bit stronger. Also, I have a phone with a camera. I’d snap some photos of the ball so I could have the memory, too.
In the end, though, it’s up to the person who snags the ball.
Catching a ball yourself while attending a game is to me a strange obsession. I am so much into the game (even when it is a bad game) that this whole catching routine by the crowd annoys me. If I catch it, I give it to a kid nearby and get it over with. Turn my full attention back to the game.
I’ve probably been to a couple hundred baseball games in my life. I’ve never been even close to catching a foul ball. I did almost get hit by a flying hockey puck – whizzed by me by about a foot or so. I probably would give the ball to a kid but I don’t think you should feel obligated to do so.
What I don’t like seeing is an adult shoving kids out of the way to get to a ball or even literally taking it out of the kid’s hands to keep it for themselves.
If the ball is hit in my direction and I catch it, I’m keeping it. What you have to watch out for is the douchebags that will run over or take a ball away from the kid who is about to catch it. That’s as low as you can go.
I was walking past the U of M baseball stadium, on my way to Yost to attend a hockey game with my daughter and her friend. For some reason, the baseball team was having some kind of inter-squad scrimmage or something (in the middle of winter) and a ball flew out of the stadium. It bounced right in front of us and ended up rolling under a nearby car. I reached my leg under (as you do) and kicked it up to myself and gave it to my kid. She put it on her dresser and I get a kick of out it when I notice it, still there after she’s ditched a lot of her other childhood things.
So, that said, I would definitely give it to my kid and prolly any other kid who looked like they’d cherish it.
I love this question / debate. I live in Rochester, NY, where we have beautiful Frontier Field, home of the Rochester Red Wings, AAA affiliate of the Nationals. I go to probably 15-20 games per year, most of which are with my family (wife and 2 kids, 10 and 12), and a few with friends.
Being a minor league, smaller stadium (12,000 capacity), it’s not as difficult or rare to get a foul ball as it is in a MLB ballpark. Even so, I don’t know if I’ve ever personally caught a foul ball in all my years of going to games. If I did, I think things would depend on who was with me. If I was there with my family, it’d be a no-brainer – I’d give it to my son or daughter.
But if I was with friends, and the kiddos were at home, it’d be a different dilemma. I would want to keep it, so that I could give it to one of my kiddos. But, for whatever reason, Rochester definitely seems to be one of those “give it to a kid” places. Whenever an adult catches a ball, kids run over to them with their hands out. I don’t like that at all – the kids are very aggressive, like beggars. And I know for a fact some of them get multiple balls per game, I’ve seen it.
So if that situation presented itself, I’d probably keep the ball and just say “I have two kids of my own at home who will get the ball.” And I’d probably get booed for it.
I went to a game in Atlanta Fulton Country Stadium on a drizzly evening with abysmal attendance, so my dad snuck us down close to home plate, not far from Ted Turner. Later that game, HE caught a foul ball. A fan asked him if he could have it and Turner said no, saying something to the effect of, “Just because I own the team doesn’t mean I catch a foul ball every day.”
I think your three criteria make perfect sense, and yeah, if you catch one like that, more power to you. I spent enough time in press boxes that I have three fouls balls that came to me either on the fly or landed right next to me. At Coors Field, we weren’t allowed to toss them out the press box window to fans below, so we’d hang on to them.
Most fouls coming into the press box are absolute lasers (one that I got my hand on left the area below my thumb purple for a week). I also remember Clint Hurdle telling us that when a ball came back toward the press box he’d watch. He once gave a glove to my co-worker for mishandling a ball so badly that “he needs all the help he can get.” Clint took the initiative and cleared it with the PR folks and our editor.
We also had one ball come back and absolutely destroy a writer’s laptop. It was his personal machine (his paper didn’t give him one), and the next day Hurdle asked him about it and after a good chuckle over the odds of the ball slamming right into the computer like that, advised the writer to make a claim on his homeowner’s insurance. Hurdle even promised (and followed through) on writing an affidavit attesting that yes, the computer really was destroyed by a foul ball and he had watched it happen.
I don’t believe you.
In my life, I’ve had one ball come to me. Not s foul though. Late 80s or early 90s, Jim Abbott was pitching for the Angels and he was catching balls in the outfield at the old Rangers stadium. My friend and I were watching in amazement as he would catch the ball and put the glove in his arm pit and fire it right back. For you youngsters, he only had one hand. A few throws coming at home were over his head or to the side and on one we made eye contact and I said good catch Mr. Abbott. When he was done he held out the ball and pointed at me! Tossed it up and I dropped it. My friend picked it up and Mr Abbott yelled no and pointed at me. He made my friend give me the ball. Of course my friend to this day still whines about it.
I was recently at a game at Angel Stadium. I was lucky enough to get 1st row seat right next to the Angels dugout. The view was amazing and it was fun to hear some of the conversations from the field. However, there was a near continuous stream of unattended kids running down from who knows where, to bother a dugout attendant and bat/ball person for the discarded baseballs from the game. It was even worse for the gentleman seated across the aisle from me as the kids kept pushing their way in front of him to try and get the attention of the dugout personnel
People feel pressure now to give a ball to a kid. I think if you catch a ball and as long as you don’t literally lurch over a kid to get it, it’s your ball to do what you want.
I personally would give it to my son or daughter but if they weren’t there I’d want to keep it to bring home to them. But..if there was a kid nearby I would probably hand it over.
I recently was at a Guardians Yankees game in Cleveland and before the inning started Stanton tossed a ball into the right field area where I was. It was about 3 rows in front of us and a dad caught it and gave it to his young daughter. There was MANY Yankee fans there and one kid wearing a Stanton jersey was a row behind the dad who caught it. The mother of that kid in the Stanton jersey was sort of razzing the dad who caught it saying you should give the ball to my kid he’s a huge Stanton fan and his wife after a min politely stated “this is our daughter’s first game and we want to keep the ball for her” and it struck me how it was insane that she had to EXPLAIN to the other lady why SHE wanted to keep the ball.
I sat back and watched it all thinking about what nerve that lady had to ask for a ball for her kid, and how graceful the other lady was about it when I would probably have responded a lot less polite to that.
If it’s hit to me and I catch it, it’s mine to keep. I’m not going to scramble or jump over seats to get it. The idea that you automatically give it to a kid is lame.
Earlier this season I was actually sitting in good seats for a change, a couple of rows off the field near the dugout and the swarm of kids after each half inning running down begging for a ball was just annoying.
I’m keeping it. I’m also keeping a HR ball hit by a visiting player. I don’t see the point of throwing it back onto the field. Not sure when that became a thing, but I don’t member that being a thing when I was a kid in the 60s and 70s.
I’ve never caught a ball outright, thought I did have one go through my hands. However, I’ve been lucky enough to get a few that landed near me, and I have given those to kids. But if you think being pressured to give a ball away is bad, imagine a bat. I was once as a game and the guy behind me caught a bat that slipped out of the batters hand. Some snot-nosed kid sitting in front of me, encouraged by his dad, went and asked the guy for the bat, which he then gave to the kid. To this day I still don’t understand the dad that told the kid to ask for the bat. I had told the kid earlier that I would give him a ball if i got one, but after that I’m glad I didn’t get one because there’s no way I’d have been to give that kid anything after he swindled the man behind be for the bat.
I was at a Reds/Padres game earlier this year. They were shooting soft souvenir baseballs out of a cannon. I caught one and gave it to the only kid near us (it was a poorly attended day game). An inning later, Trent Grisham hit a foul ball and it landed 20 rows below me and took a quirky bounce straight up the aisle. I caught it and kept it. Some guy appeared out of nowhere and yelled at me to give it to the kid. I replied that I just gave him a ball. The kid heard me and held it up to the guy. The dude got embarrassed and walked away.
When I was younger, I would have kept the ball, but now as I enter my mid 40s, I’d give it away. What am I going to do with it, anyway? If I keep it, I’ll probably lose track of it. And I’d like to become a minimalist as far as physical possessions.
Years ago, I caught a batting practice foul ball at a Reds game and a grabbed a batting practice HR off the seats at a Nats game. I kept those, and I don’t even know where they are anymore.
Nobody wants anyone to be happy, they didn’t get a ball, so why should you have one? Honestly, I think it is much more this then anything else. But here is the play… If you bring a lady, make a display about giving it to her before anybody has a chance to give you raspberries, and the rabble will love you for it. Play the crowd Paul.
I work part-time for MLB in an undisclosed minor league ballpark. I’m there on official business and sit in a camera well but that doesn’t stop every single kid in the ballpark from coming up to me during the game asking for free baseballs. I usually don’t give them any (or have any to give for that matter) but sometimes the players will have me act as the middleman between them in the dugout and the stands. Kids don’t care how they get the ball, they just want the souvenir.
The ticker apparently doesn’t get pushed through the RSS feed? I’m not seeing it one my reader only articles like these. Something else to consider.
It’s on our list. Patience.
Cool. No rush just commenting in case no one else noticed.
When I was 31, I caught a line drive foul off the bat of Sid Bream of the Pirates at Candlestick Park. A guy down the row from me caught two others that same day. I still have the ball and the Good Hands Award patch an usher gave me for catching it on the fly. Fortunately, I had my mitt that day or it woulda hurt. Fortunately, the guy in front of me was gone for a beer or it would have decapitated him. I’m now 63 and two weekends ago I was sitting seven rows behind the Giants’ dugout at Petco in San Diego. After one of the innings, Brandon Belt tossed a ball over the screen and I caught it—and kept it. Two innings later, Brandon Crawford tossed one over the screen and I caught that one too. I handed it to my friend, who was mad that I took both balls away from him. What can I say? I’m 6’4″ and played first base. He handed the second ball to a kid in a Giants shirt two rows in front of us. The next day, we were two rows closer to the field and even with the third base bag. There wasn’t a ball of any kind within 50 feet of us all day—and that really sums up most of the 57 years I’ve been going to games.
I certainly don’t think anyone should feel overly pressured to give a foul ball away. That said I think a big part of it is that as an adult I have an obvious size advantage. I’m 6’3” for a 4’ kid to have a chance it has to be hit exactly to them where as I have a much larger easy catch radius
Additionally if I do catch one I would probably stick it on my desk and rarely think about it, I certainly don’t think I would tell friends about that time I caught it, and even if I did the story doesn’t need the ball. However it would likely be significantly more impactful on the kid who likely would tell his friends that he got a real ball and show it off. It would be more impactful on me to make a kid happy than it would be to gather dust in my office.
I’ve never caught a foul ball, but I did catch a batting practice homer at Turner Field once. (Yes, I still bring my glove whenever possible.) Another fun “ball” moment for me was catching a field goal at Jack Murphy Stadium. Unfortunately, it was also during warmups, and I threw it back on the field. I’ve always wondered what I would have done had it been during a game.
To the question at hand – if I caught an in-game foul ball and was not with one of my own kids, I would probably give it away. A homerun, on the other hand…
You reminded me of an ongoing question that I’ve had for years now? Is it “ok” for an adult to bring a glove to order he ballpark? I’m 42 and would not even consider bringing one. Am I just jaded?
I’m 54 and still haven’t gotten a game ball, although I came close a couple of times. As recently as two or three years ago, I would have kept the ball assuming I got it fair and square, but now I think I would probably take a photo of it with my phone to prove I did actually have possess it for a minute, and then look for a nearby kid to give it to.
I guess I figure I have too much stuff cluttering up my house anyway, I would probably leave it on the shelf and forget about it, and it would be a thrill for the kid to take it home and show it off to his friends the next day.
Plus, I think would have a fear of being caught on camera and the announcers deciding to shame me for not giving it up. In that case, it just wouldn’t be worth it. I’ve seen plenty of YouTube clips of foul-ball drama, and in some, they show an adult being overzealous in getting one, but there are also others that show a kid upset because he came close and didn’t get one. Then, the announcers will set it up so they bring a ball to him, and I’m thinking “Yeah, great lesson to teach the kids — that they’ll be rewarded for crying or pouting because things didn’t go their way.”
BUT, it’s up to the person; for Paul and others of any age who get one and want to keep it, you do so and make no apologies.
I’ve been going to MLB games since 71. Never come close except once, it was coming straight down and then tailed off and hit the wall behind me.
If I catch one, it’s mine. Sorry Junior.
I have one foul ball. My dad (who took me to hundreds of games) caught it and gave it to me. Its on my desk at work and I treasure it. I was about 32.
Anyway. To me this isn’t about kids and generosity, this is about bleacher idiots looking for an excuse to taunt other adults. Its not real. If I ever catch a ball I’m keeping it.
Exception: if something awesome like this happens.
If its a random ball from a random player I’m not giving it to a random kid.
I caught a foul ball (after it bounced once) in Montreal in the 90s. I kept it because it was hit by a member of my favorite team (Padres), and because there were no kids (or ANYONE) around…
I’ve caught a fair number of balls. It’s always an adrenaline inducing experience. I gave away my first ball about 27 years ago when I was at a Durham Bulls game while looking at colleges. I’ve given all of them away sense then because it gives me more satisfaction to do that than look at it on a shelf for years to come (there is little margin value to collecting more baseballs for me). That’s all. But if you don’t have that experience and want to look at it for a reminder of it, that’s up to you.
Now, if you are that tool bag who has collected thousands of them, get a life. There is no marginal value to any of those balls but there would be a strong positive influence on a kid who is getting his first.
When I was about 10, we went to a game at old Comiskey Park. At one point, I took my brother (age 6) to the bathroom, and an usher stopped us along the way. He had picked up a ball (not sure if it was a foul ball or from batting practice or what) and said if my brother could catch it, we could keep the ball. He stood about 6 feet away and lightly tossed the ball to my brother, who caught it. A nice gesture, since we were both wearing Brewers gear.
Several years ago in Dayton I was attending a Dragons game with my girlfriend. First pitch of the game was fouled off right at us. My girlfriend dropped her hamburger but got the ball.
About a month ago I was at a Captains game in Eastlake, Ohio. The game was sparsely attended, around 1300 fans. Late in the game a foul ball comes to my section where there are 2 other people. A young lady got the ball but looked around for a child. I pointed one out and she handed it over. Personally, I have no use for a baseball. If I wanted one so bad I’d just go buy one at the team store.
Great foul ball philosophy, Paul. I’ve caught or picked up–several foul balls at MLB games and dropped two others. The first 2 possessed were at Coors Field as I live in Colorado. I kept the first–as you said you would do because it was my first and I caught it after it bounced in the aisle below me and ricocheted gently to my seat about 15 rows up.
The second bounced around and rolled into the aisle next to my seat and a just reached out and picked it up. There were several kids that jumped into the aisle to run after that ball. After I grabbed it, there was a deafening din of howls to surrender that ball to one of the kids. I mean, you don’t know peer pressure until this happens to you. Never felt such guilt, and I tossed the ball to a glove attached to a small person in the aisle.
I’m also touring all the MLB parks, and my third foul ball possessed came when I scored front row, left field seats at the ballpark in Southside Chicago (forget the naming wrong). A batter hit a gentle liner foul, bounced on the track then landed in my buddy’s closed seat next to me and stuck. Just had to grab it out of slot when the seat is folded up. My friend thought that was the best time to get concessions. There was some hooting and hollering to give up the ball as I recall. But getting a foul in a ballpark other than your own is a whole different ballgame, because this is really the ultimate souvenir of a distant ballpark. Nothing could possibly be better. Maybe unless a player tossed his jersey into the stands. Not giving that ball to a kid, no way.
I was pretty lucky the first one I caught as a fan, when I was 29, came in the top of the ninth inning of a game that was already lost. There were no kids left to whom to give the ball.
I think it kind of depends on the circumstances. Pardon me for getting NFL-like here, but defining the “catch” part of “catching a foul ball” might be important here. Make an amazing, one-handed grab on the fly while holding a beer in your other hand? Then yeah, I think you should at least have the option to keep the ball — give it to a kid if you want, but you earned the applause and the spoils.
On the other hand, if you push a 12-year-old out of the way to get a ball rolling on the concourse, then the kid should probably win. Heck, knock a kid out of the way to make the catch and you should give the ball to the kid.
Let me put it this way: If a kid nearby makes a significant effort to get the ball, and you *beat* him to it somehow, then you’re essentially a grown-up taking something of value from a child, which seems morally dubious. At that point, you should give the ball to the kid. Otherwise, it’s yours.
Hard to believe that nobody has mentioned that the expanded netting now used by MLB and presumably minor leagues as well will make catching a foul ball even less likely for fans.
Actually, that’s only true for the fans who sit in the lower bowl (and even then only for certain foul balls). For those of us who sit above that level, nothing has changed.
I’m an usher for my local minor league team. I can say without a doubt the best part of my job is snagging a foul ball and giving it to the nearest kid. Makes their day.
I’m also lucky enough to have got a foul ball at a Mets game about 8 years ago. If I was at an MLB game and got another one that was hit to me, I think it’d depend on who hit it. The one at the Mets game was hit by Pablo Sandoval, who I was a big fan of at the time.
I’m 51 and have never caught a foul ball. I’ve picked up a few and gave them away when kids were around. I have caught two home runs in batting practice and I still have both. The second was hit by Ivan Rodriguez and I was pretty sure he was going to the Hall by that point so there was no way I was giving that up.
If I catch a foul ball? I think I’m with you – if it’s on the fly, it’s mine. Anything else, the kid can have it.
If I end up with an in-game home run ball, I might be keeping that no matter what.
I caught a foul ball at Oriole Park several years ago. It is the first, and only, major league ball I ever caught. I was pretty happy about it. Almost immediately, the fans near me started with the “give it a kid” chants. I responded “I am going to give it to a kid. My kid. When I get home.”
While I gave it to my then 7 or 8 year old daughter, it sits on a shelf with some other sports related items (junk?) that I have collected over the years. I guess I won’t know if it is hers or kine until she either takes it or leaves it when she moves out!
I actually have a foul ball from a minor league game the means more to me. It came off the bat of Nomar Garciaparra when he played for the Trenton Thunder against the Bowie Baysox. I asked Nomar to autograph it after the game and he did. That one is definitely mine!
I’ve been lucky enough to catch two fouls at Shea. First one bounced level off above and came right to me. Next one was in 2001 and I had taken my Dad to the game and he had never caught one. It was hit by Mark McGwire but it had hit off an 7 year old kid at the end of the row before it ricocheted to me. Kid was crying but thankfully wasn’t badly hurt. Had to do the right thing and give it to the kid. Still waiting for my first at Citi Field. I’d probably keep it unless it hits someone first or I have a small kid sitting right next to me. Wouldn’t be searching one out.
Here’s a unique situation: I had the chance to meet the All Star 3rd baseman for my fav team at a meet-and-greet in 2019. I told him we are season ticket holders and thanked him for tossing us a ball at a past game. He asked where we sat and I told him. At the next game he looked for us and tossed up another ball. Since then he’s targeted us at almost every game we attend and it’s always thrilling. We don’t always get them – some are short, others long, and sometimes we get run over by people trying to catch it with their hat. But, we’ve seen lots of happy people benefit from the attempt when they go home with a piece of the game. But just about every time we DO make the catch someone yells to give it to a kid. We almost always do give the ball away, but sometimes it’s a ball that we’d like to keep, i.e. Max Scherzer’s 2944th career K. We’ve given away dozens of balls over the years, but kept a few for ourselves, and what I’ve learned is that you can’t please everyone. The generosity of the player is what’s been most special to experience, and we’ve been able to witness first hand the power of a baseball to bring joy to young and old alike. Snagged my first ball at age 51 in 2019 and my most recent one at the 2022 All Star game – a 5th inning groundout off the bat of Miguel Cabrera, tossed up by another 3rd baseman, Manny Machado. No one bothered to yell, “Give it to a kid”…cause they knew the 54 year old kid already had it.
Great post, Paul!
I’ve seldom caught baseballs at games, but one of my fondest memories of catching one was at a Kane County Cougars game when I was in elementary school. The ball landed in some netting near a concourse (I’m not sure if that’s still up) and an adult who was tall actually jumped up a few times to give myself and a bunch of other kids the chance to catch it. I’ve always appreciated that, but that specific baseball has gone missing throughout the years.
I don’t think there should be any social pressure on forcing people to give baseballs to anyone; I think having that forcefulness (whether direct or peer pressure) doesn’t make it that “kind” of an act.
I was at a St. Louis Blues game way back when Gretzky had his short stint with the Blues. During warms up, 9 year old me was behind the goal with a handful of people as the players were warming up the goaltender. The goalie had finished and was no longer in the net. I waved to Gretzky and he gave me a head nod and smile as he circled the back round the top of the blue line. He picked up a puck, came back towards me and hit the crossbar on the empty net. The puck went straight up into the air and over the glass directly to me. Right as the puck was approaching me, a grown man in his 40s leaned over the top of me and practically snatched it out of my hands. Gretzky saw the entire thing take place and even looked back as he was skating away and looking a little perturbed.
I don’t know for sure if he was purposely trying to get the puck to me or if it was just a coincidence. Either way, this enraged my father who had a brief altercation with the dude who snatched the puck away and he refused to give up. Arena staff came down pretty quickly and made everyone who didn’t have seats in the area to clear out which included my family. My parents still talk about the incident to this day and are convinced that puck was meant for me. I always remind them, if my Dad didn’t make a scene, we could have stayed in that area longer and Gretzky could have had another shot and getting me a puck if those were his intentions.
I caught a foul on three ricochets at a minor league game. I first gave it to my girlfriend, then I took it back and gave it to a kid. Double points. Unless the ball is worth money, who cares, it’s just a ball. If it makes some kid’s day, why not? It’s just gonna sit around on a shelf somewhere otherwise.