There is this ball that I have sitting in my office. To many, it looks like just any other baseball. On most days it just sits there, without someone even looking at it. There is no signature on it, and I have yet to fill out the placard on the baseball stand. But I treasure that ball. I wouldn’t say it’s Babe Ruth-esque special, but I’d still be upset if William took the ball to the sandlot one day.
The story behind that ball dates back to 1996. A good year for me as a young boy. My local high school baseball team won the state baseball championship, and it seems that anytime something good is brought up from the past, 1996 is the year. It was June 30, and we were on our way to Coors Field in Denver. I remember telling my parents, that I was going to catch a foul ball this game. I also mentioned that it was good that the promotion that day was a free hat since I had left my glove back in the hotel room because we weren’t actually sitting in foul ball territory.
I don’t remember the exact inning, but Ellis Burks came to bat. At one point during his at bat, he fouls one off down the third base line. I hear my dad say, “BRANDON, LOOK UP!” because more than likely I munching on a hot dog. Without thinking, I hold out my hat. My dad was standing next to me thinking that he had the ball when suddenly, it lands directly into the hat, pulling it from my hands into the empty seat in front of me.
While my dad was looking around for the ball, I look down to grab my hat because, at the time, I’m more concerned about a free hat than a foul ball I probably didn’t or won’t get. But when I lift the hat up, the ball hit off of Ellis Burks’ bat is sitting inside. I hold the ball up like any fan who catches a foul ball does and remember the fans from our section cheer loudly. This was the moment that I imagined all of the local TV cameras were on me and that I would make it on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays. I don’t remember if all of that happened, but I remember catching that ball like it was yesterday.
Turn the calendar forward 11 years. My son and I are at a Kansas City T-Bones game (an independent professional baseball team in Kansas City), walking around and taking in the sights and sounds of the game in the 3rd inning when a man walks up to my son and hands him a ball that just landed foul in our area. You could see the excitement in my boy’s eyes as he held that ball. He might not have caught it but it you could see that the ball was going to be just as special to him as my foul ball was to me.
As the game ended, we walked toward to the grass berm to watch the post-game fireworks. The players make their way to the locker room, walking up that same berm, when suddenly former Kansas City Royals (and member of the 1985 World Series team) Frank White walks by us after coaching first base for the T-Bones. After shaking the hands of fans, he stops and starts signing autographs for the kids. Our son was holding his ball in his hand, and I asked if he would like to have his ball signed. He might not know the how important the guy was who was signing autographs, but he walked into the crowd of kids and came walking back out with “Frank White” written on the ball.
Much like my dad did, I made sure that his foul ball was kept securely. His sits next to mine on the shelf in my office, sharing childhood memories of two boys who have a love for baseball. And hoping that someday they don’t fall victim to the sandlot like that Babe Ruth ball.
A version of this first appeared on The Rookie Dad. Photos: Brandon Billinger