Gary Lee and the Major League Foul Ball

while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Growing up in the country and having little time or money for all the electronic games the world had to offer, Gary Lee and I invented countless outdoor games together. We would figure out some game with the football or baseball or Frisbee, then spend hours refining it so that no matter the game, it was a real contest for us. We would both have to be on our “A” game to come out as winners. Even though neither of us were all that athletic, we would challenge each other to the max, often ending up snorting and guffawing at our pitiful attempts to look like one of our sports heroes from the big leagues.

A game I remember well went something like this – one of us would take off running out of his yard, tear down a path through the brush, then cut hard to the right and dive headfirst over a pile of leaves. The other guy had to toss a football in between trees and branches and have it arrive at just the precise moment for the receiver to make a diving catch whilst fully extended over the leaf pile. We practiced this for hours until we each knew how long it would take the other guy to run the route. When the perfect pass and catch were made, we would sometimes exaggerate our strutting around and celebrating, as much poking fun at the some of the knuckleheads in the big leagues as at our own success.

Gary Lee and I laughed a lot together, we did.

On very rare occasions, we would go to a major league baseball game. Of course, the talk on our long drive to the ballpark would inevitably turn to how we were hoping to catch our very own major league baseball. We’d seen lots of foul balls go into the stands when we watched our teams play on TV. We just knew that today would be the big day for us.

On this particular day I remember we sat way up in the upper deck behind home plate. I mean way up. Like about two miles, or so it seemed. We almost needed binoculars to see the field, let alone the players. These had to be the cheapest seats on the planet. It may have been years since a foul ball had been hit into this area. However, we were undaunted. We just knew this was going to be our big day.

After several innings of us scarfing down hot dogs and bags of peanuts, I needed to leave to use the restroom. I knew this was a danger, as my once-in-a-lifetime shot at a foul ball might occur while I was away from my duty station. But I had waited as long as I could, so off I went. When I returned, someone had put what appeared to be every peanut shell from 1/3 of the stadium on top of my seat. I peered over the pile of shells at Gary Lee. He stared out at the field, trying his best not to crack a smile. Finally he looked up at me. “Is something wrong?”

“I have never seen such immature behavior in all my life,” I said loudly to the crowd around me. “This is disgusting, just disgusting. Well I never…”

I pushed the mountain of peanut shells off my seat and sat down. Soon, however, Gary Lee had to use the restroom as well, and of course, I returned the favor. This time he had even more shells on his seat since we were still chowing down on the peanuts.

Then it happened. I think it was about the seventh inning, but I can’t be sure. When once-in-a-lifetime events take place, things can just become a blur.

Gary Lee and I were sitting there, still eating something I’m sure, and bemoaning the fact that if we just had a chance, we’d catch that baseball if it ever came our way. All we needed was a chance. Then the pitcher wound up and threw to home plate. The batter swung and lifted a high foul ball way up behind home plate. I mean way up. The ball seemed to come toward us in slow motion, we were so high up.

In an instant Gary Lee and I were both on our feet, hands at the ready, pushing each other out of the way and jockeying for position. I wish I could have seen what our faces looked like at that moment.

The ball landed a few yards away to our left, on Gary Lee’s side. It struck the corner of a steel beam or something. The baseball had so much spin on it, that as soon as it struck the beam, it came toward us as if shot out of a cannon. I think it was about head-high, and it was moving like a rocket. Fortunately for me, it missed us both. I say that because had it hit Gary Lee, it may have gone right through him and got me too, that’s how fast it seemed to be flying. The ball went by us at the speed of light, then careened off a few more seats and steel beams before it slowed down enough for someone several seats away to grab it.

We looked at each other with big eyes and mouths wide open. Then we started to laugh and laugh.

“Why didn’t you grab that thing?” Gary Lee joked.

“Me? You were the one closest to it, why didn’t you grab it?

“I thought I’d let it go to give you a chance.”

After discussing how the whole thing played out from our perspectives, we sat back down to watch the rest of the game.

“You know, I really don’t think I need a major league baseball all that bad after all.”

“Me neither, I can live without one.”

“Me too. Let the kids have ’em.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Let the kids have ’em.”

So here I sit, clicking away at the keyboard and still without a major league baseball after all these years. But that’s okay, I’m doing alright. A baseball would just be another temporary thing laying around.

And although he’s no longer with us, Gary Lee is doing alright too. As the above Scripture states, temporary things really don’t mean much to him anymore. (see Gary Lee and the big Tree )

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