Gregory Stuart Dobbs, former Philadelphia Phillies and current Miami Marlin should keep an eye on his mailbox over the next couple of weeks. He will undoubtedly find an unpleasant surprise awaiting him. But before I get into that …
I am proud to announce the end of a personal drought that has run for roughly 48 years! It began when I was about 8. (Might have been 6. It was a LONG time ago …)
That’s when I attended my first Philadelphia Phillies game at venerable Connie Mack Stadium! In all those years, I had NEVER caught a batted ball during game play … or during batting practice … or even as a casual flip by a player into the stands.
You get my drift. Never the chance to smell the processed leather scent of a new ball, to feel the slightly raised stitches or the slick whiteness of the MLB sphere. There was a hole in life … a small hole, but nonetheless …
It’s one of those silly things guys who like their sports, who adore the Game of Baseball, are driven to “accomplish”. Just one of those experiences you want to check off the Minor Bucket List.
Most of us pursue our quarry willy-nilly on those occasions when we go to a ballgame and get the chance to sit in The Good Seats … in just the right place in the stadium where the fouls balls will most assuredly fall like manna from the heavens throughout the entire game. Those of us who cherish this quest will deliberately study potential ball flight paths, homeplate proximity, and immediately calculate the odds of a catch as soon as we get to our seats.
Yes, we are a sorry breed.
My personal drought ended on a Saturday evening, June 23, 2012 in the fourth inning of a game at Citizens Bank Park between the hometown Phils and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Catch will forever go down in Family Lore as a diving, one-hand snag of a screaming line drive into the seats. At least that will be the story I plan to pass down to every one of my grandchildren … eventually. I will have to redefine the meaning of “catch” to include “gaining possession of an object that’s barely moving”. And I might throw in a small child or grandmother saved from a potential cataclysmic head injury.
But today will be the only time the true story will be told. But first back to my potential lawsuit against Greg Dobbs …
Since the World Championship season of 2008, we have held good ball-potential seats. Section 135 at Citizens Bank Park, just behind third base, halfway down the left field line, 21 rows from the field. We’ve had our share of close calls, including one in 2009 off the bat of the soon-to-be-lighter-in-the-wallet Gregory Stuart Dobbs.
In a game which has faded from memory, Mr. Dobbs assaulted us in our Section 135 seats. His weapon was a screaming line drive foul ball.
As soon as I saw it off the bat, I said to no one in particular, “Uh oh!” (no, not one of my more eloquent observations) The round missile was traveling at roughly the speed of sound and right at my bride’s delicate noggin.
To this day, she insists she would have caught it, had I not stuck my mitt-less mitt in front of her face. But by my calculation, she would still be in a head cast, sipping dinner through a straw.
So I did the gentlemanly thing and knocked her out of the way – gently … kinda – and bravely stuck my hand out to protect my woman … and of course, to see if I could grab that elusive sphere. When the dust settled, the ball was in the possession of a regular Section 135 resident who sits right behind us; I had a knot the size of Placido Polanco’s head growing on my thumb; and the spousal unit was in a tiff because I ruined HER CHANCE to catch one in the teeth!
For years I have lived with the humiliation of missing that Impossible Catch, the shame of ruining Carol’s “big chance” at a Grade III concussion, and the taunts of a coworker who sits a row ahead of us on the same 17-game ticket plan.
The torment finally ended that Saturday night!
Future Hall-of-Fame shortstop, Elliot Johnson (OK, so he’s off to a slow start.) swung at a Kyle Kendrick offering as I sat next to Carol and sipped my chosen adult beverage, a Flying Fish Extra Pale Ale.
As the ball arced tightly toward the population of Section 135, I received a mental text message from that compartment of the brain in charge of Semi-Athletic Endeavors … PUT THE BEER DOWN. As I complied, I thought “Why am I bothering? That ball’s not getting here.”
Sure enough the ball hits three rows ahead of us and about 6 seats to our right. I had stood up just before the ball hit flailing flesh, keenly abiding the next two intra-brain text messages … STAND UP, STUPID and LOOK FOR A REBOUND …
Several people lunged for the possession prized by so many, though it means so little. The ball got through outstretched arms and struck the back of a seat a row or two in front of us, still off to our right.
As I searched for a ricochet, I was stunned to see the ball bounding down our row; seat-back high, clanking off grabbing hands, bouncing off cowering women folk. It struck someone or something and plopped into a seat a row in front and just to the right of my Android-distracted spousal unit. (Later, she would insist she would have had the ball had she not been playing with her phone. Well, at least this time she wouldn’t have needed all that dental work.)
Since I was obediently standing up already, I was in the perfect position to plunge down and grab the valueless trinket. Yet for some reason, I waited for the next rather frantic, emotion-filled brain text that screamed GET IT, YA DOPE!!!
As I swooped down (dismiss all pre-existing concepts of what “swooping” looks like), another gentleman equidistant from the seat on the other side of Carol also lunged down and flailed at the elusive prize. My cat-like movements (consisting of me clawing at the still bouncing ball like a large, slow-moving cat) simply knocked the ball around the seat some more, as I and my competition continued to swat and grab. Finally, I cornered the ball and plucked it from the seat!
I rose triumphant and exhilarated! Displaying my trophy for all The World to see, including that smart ass from work who predicted I would NEVER get my first in-game ball! I was King of the World!
Then Kendrick threw another pitch, and I was just a middle-aged doofus making too much out of corralling a worthless, slightly used baseball.
And that leads me back to Gregory Stuart Dobbs.
I heard that Elizabeth Lloyd and her husband are suing an 11-year-old Little League player in Manchester Township, NJ for $300,000 after allegedly plunking her in the face with a baseball … that might have been traveling 10 miles an hour … while she sat completely oblivious to what was going on around her at a baseball game with pre-teens swinging metal bats and throwing rock hard objects.
I don’t really buy this – that you can hold an 11-year-old accountable for your own lack of attention – but it was inspiring on a much higher financial level! Afterall, if Ms. Lloyd is successful, imagine what I could get from a grown man and well-paid ballplayer – Mr. Dobbs – who was “engaging in inappropriate physical and/or sporting activity” in the presence of 45,000 people!!
In addition, I also lost the “services, society and consortium” of my wife. This was the indisputable result of my thumb injury, which prevented me from completing my “move”, as I prefer The Pinch over The Swirl. For weeks I was reduced to using The Knuckle. It was HORRIBLE! The loss was devastating, insufferable, humiliating, and completely fabricated.
But hey, get me a good lawyer, and I could
make take me a fortune!
Greg Dobbs, the bell tolls for thee!