July 29, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Fan’s fateful encounter with foul ball at Safeco spins out of control
By Barry Hyman
Barry Hyman is Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and Public Affairs at the University of Washington.
When our friends from Missouri, Martha and Ted Munnecke, visited us recently, my wife Betty
Winfield and I had to take them to a Mariners game. Little did Ted and I know that the visit to Safeco Field would include the chance of a lifetime for two 70-year-old (and then some) baseball wannabes.
Ted and I are big baseball fans. With Ted and I decked out in my Mariner Fantasy Camp jerseys, we all headed for Safeco’s upper-deck seats behind first base. We parked the car and started our trek, only to have me rush back to fetch my baseball gloves (that precious gear used every summer during my Puget Sound Senior Baseball League games).
From the very first pitch, Ted and I donned our mitts and enthusiastically cheered on the Mariners. While we never expected to catch a foul ball, we bragged about doing so, just for the fun of it. Our wives tolerated our shenanigans until the fifth inning, when they announced it was time to eat dinner at the Hit It Here Café. Like loyal subjects, we took off our gloves and followed them.
By the time we finished dessert, it was the bottom of the seventh. The Mariners had an 8-0 lead over the Angels. Martha and Betty headed for the left-field stands to check out the Ladies Night activities. Ted and I raced back to our seats.
No sooner had we sat down when Mark Trumbo lofted a high pop foul toward the first-base stands. For the first time in my 70-plus years of attending games (starting at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field) a foul ball actually headed my way. I didn’t even have to move. The ball was coming right to me! Ted grabbed the back of my jersey to prevent me from tumbling into the next row.
Time slowed to a crawl. I could see my name written on the ball as it slowly descended from its apex towards my outstretched hands. Only then did I realize both hands were bare. I had forgotten to put my glove back on!
Nevertheless, I grasped the ball with both hands. But the spin was too intense! The ball dropped between the back and folded up bottom of the empty seat in front of me, and was still spinning furiously as it slowly descended out of my frantic reach, much like swirling water in a draining bathtub.
A fan several seats away ran over and picked up the ball after it hit the concrete.
Instantly, Ted and I realized our missed opportunity and burst into hysterical laughter. We knew that an even bigger challenge remained.
After all of our kibitzing, how are we ever going to convince our wives of our close encounter? Our story would sound as ridiculous as all of our other tales.
Our best hope was that the lucky fan who retrieved the ball would vouch for us. Alas, before we could approach him, he and his family left with his keepsake. Now what?
With our star witness gone, we turned to the nearest usher, Christopher.
“Christopher, did you see what happened?” I begged. “Please, please vouch for us to our wives when they return. They’ll never believe it”
“I’ll do even better than that,” replied Christopher. He pulled out a blank membership card for the Seattle Mariners Foul Ball Club. He recorded the date, Mark Trumbo’s and my name, and then qualified the entry with “Assist”.
Martha and Betty were in no position to dismiss this carefully documented evidence. They even apologized for taking us to dinner and making us remove our gloves.
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