The Joy And Perils Of A Foul Ball

Don Chapman
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April 08, 2009
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I wasn’t going to mention in the pages of MidWeek that I recently caught a foul ball at a UH baseball game, but since Bob Hogue is spilling the beans in his column on page 70, well ...

And I’m not just bragging here - OK, maybe a little - there is a moral to this tale.

Setting the scene: It was a Saturday afternoon game against Loyola Marymount. Sitting in the first row of the upper section of seats behind first base, first inning of my first UH game of the season, fortunately I’d just put down my beer and hot dog when Rainbow third baseman Vinnie Catricala fouled off a screaming line drive - directly at me! If you were counting Mississippis, from the time it left his bat until it got to me was about one Mississi… Also fortunately, this old high school and college catcher had enough left in the way of reflexes to sort of smother the ball between my left thigh, forearm and right hand. It may have looked more like a soccer goalie making a save, but a catch it was, my first foul ball catch in a lifetime of attending ball games.



I mention it here now only because UH baseball is again a hot ticket in town, and I’m frankly amazed that so many in attendance don’t seem to be paying attention, including kids running around the stadium, apparently without a thought about what could happen if a ball were ripped at them.

While catching a foul ball is the ultimate thrill for a lot of us fans, these batted projectiles can be dangerous and are potentially lethal. Not to sound like an old scold, but in the two games I’ve attended since that one, I’ve noted people sitting in that same seat, or walking up and down the stairs in front of it, entirely oblivious to the action on the field. Aball similar to the one I stopped could have caused an awful injury. If I’d been looking away at that moment, it might have cracked a rib. As it was, the ball left a pretty good bruise.

My healthy respect for these rock-like spheroids comes in part from having spent much of my youth as a human backstop, in part because the only player ever killed by a pitched ball in Major League Baseball was a guy named Ray Chapman, in the days before protective helmets. And a couple of years ago a minor league coach was killed by a foul ball. There’s a reason they call the game hardball. Which is why, back in the day when I was taking my two young keiki o ka aina to UH baseball games, I preferred sitting behind the protective screen. If that wasn’t possible, I at least sat between the kids and the batter, so I could intercept a foul ball before it hit them.

In short, the basic survival rule for fans, and the only way to catch a foul ball, is that if the batter is facing your side of the stadium, you should pay about as much attention as the defensive players on the field.

All that said, as Bob Hogue writes, I do like this UH team, a lot. Coach Mike Trapasso’s squad has talent throughout the lineup, plays good fundamental baseball, often comes up with spectacular defensive plays and timely hits, and always hustles. Most of all, they’re fun to watch play this great game. Oh, and they’re winning.

There’s nothing more relaxing to me than going out to a game, putting the feet up, having a couple of those tasty all-beef Eisenberg hot dogs and a tall, cold Gorden Biersch Marzen, and cheering the Bows.

This season, there’s lots to cheer about, and there’s a fresh buzz at the old (but beautifully refurbished) ball yard.

As they say, though, keep your head in the game and your eyes on the ball. It could be coming in a hurry to a seat near you.

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