No minor thing: Making the catch of the game

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 4, 2018

One of the side trips in our recent visit to State College, Pa., to see my alma mater, Appalachian State, play Top 10 opponent Penn State was actually right across the street from massive Beaver Stadium — where 105,232 gathered for the college football opener.

The night before at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, the State College Spikes played host to the West Virginia Black Bears in a New York-Penn League minor league baseball game.

So what’s the big deal about that, you might ask?

Well, I made the catch of the night at the game — at least according to my wife and a nearby usher — when I snared a foul ball with my own bare hands off the bat of Edwin Figuera, a third-base prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm team in the Class A Short Season league. I played a lot of baseball when I was younger, and it would have been much easier to catch the ball with a glove, but you do what you have to do.

It was the bottom of the third inning, and we were sitting about 10 rows behind home plate. I saw the ball go straight up and then noticed it seemed to be tracking our way — actually headed more toward my wife or the empty seat beside her.

As she let out a scream and jumped behind me, I stepped up in front of her and followed the flight of the ball as it seemingly gained speed with backspin.

I couldn’t miss one of the biggest catches of my life. I held my hands out in front of me, grabbing it with my left hand and supporting with my right. The crowd of 5,517 cheered as I held up the treasured souvenir.

The usher in our section came over to check with us and make sure everything was OK. My hand was stinging and red from the impact, but I didn’t utter a word.

As he was headed back to his post, he paused, with the home team already down 7-1 and not having their best night in the field and said, “Hey, can we sign you to a contract to go play center field?”

We laughed and enjoyed the rest of a relaxing night before the big football game the next day.

Actually, it was first foul ball I’ve ever caught on the fly at a professional game. I got one major league ball in 1979 in Atlanta but it bounced high off the concrete a few rows in front of me into my outstretched hand. And I secured a couple of other balls at minor league games that bounced off a few chairs in empty sections of the stadiums.

I even got a ball in my first trip to Spring Training in Florida in March. Standing beyond the left-field fence at Willie Stargell Field at Pirate City in Bradenton, one of the aspiring big leaguers — No. 73 Cristian Navarro — tossed an official Minor League practice ball to me. It had some scuff marks on it and might not have been the real thing, but it was a ball … and going in the trophy case.

Now I need to make room for the ball from State College. It was a great way to end the baseball season before the kickoff to another football season.

• • • • •

These little nuggets come from one of my favorite out-of-town papers – That Little Big Paper, which claims to be Ronda, Jonesville and Elkin’s leading newspaper: A young girl and her teacher are arguing about whether humans can be swallowed by whales. Her teacher says it’s impossible for whales to swallow humans because whales have small throats. The little girl says, “How can this be? Jonah got swallowed by a whale.” The teacher says, “That’s not even a true story.” The girl says, ”When I go to Heaven, I’ll ask him.” The teacher says, “What if Jonah didn’t go to Heaven?” The girl says, “Then you ask him.”

Then there’s this one: I signed up for an exercise class and was told to wear loose fitting clothing… If I HAD any loose fitting clothing, I wouldn’t have signed up to begin with!