“Can we see some ball games on our way across the country?” I hoped.
“That’s what I was thinking,” Clark said.
Clark was just getting out of the Navy and wanted my help with the move. I got me a one-way ticket to Virginia so that I could help him load up the moving truck and we’d drive it across the country to Idaho, hitting three different major league baseball stadiums along the way.
“These are good seats for a foul ball,” I said, sitting right behind home plate in Cincinnati.
“Not as good as the seats we had in Philly,” Clark laughed. “If one does come, just make sure to bat it my way again.”
“Shut up,” I said.
It was a fun game that lasted 13 innings. I finally got to see the incredible Ken Griffey Jr. play, but no foul ball came near us.
“Looks like we can’t park in the stadium parking lot,” Clark said as we neared the stadium in St. Louis.
“Better find ourselves a nice neighborhood to park the moving truck, then,” I said.
That was impossible, though. We drove around and around and around and around the entire area looking for a safe place where we weren’t guaranteed to get robbed. St. Louis didn’t pick a very friendly looking area to plant a baseball stadium. Finally, even though we were far from comfortable with the idea of leaving the truck, we parked it next to a church, and walked about a mile to the stadium. The windows were all barred, but still, it was a church. Nobody would empty out our moving truck in front of a church, would they? Of course they would, and we knew they would, but it was either there or nowhere, and we were determined to watch a Cardinals game.
“Sweet!” I said. “I’ve never seen Pedro Martinez pitch live before.”
“Famous people are never as tall as you picture them in your mind, are they?” Clark noted.
We didn’t have very good foul ball seats. Actually, they weren’t even foul ball seats at all. The seats were in the outfield, and catching a homerun would have been much better than catching a foul ball anyway. Still, catching any kind of game ball wasn’t in the cards that day. By the time the third inning came around, the game was going horribly and then it started raining. The rain came in fast and it came in hard. The combination of not knowing how long the rain delay would last, on top of the thought that we didn’t know how long our truck would last before it was emptied out by bandits, made us decide just to head back to the truck.
“At least we can get a head start toward Denver,” Clark said. “We’re going to have to hurry pretty good to get there by game time tomorrow anyway.”
“I think I was more worried about walking to Denver than I was getting out on time,” I said. “I wasn’t really able to enjoy any of that game out of fear that whole time that we were getting robbed.”
The storm was incredible. We planned on driving as far as we could, then find a hotel before getting an early start in the morning toward Denver. It didn’t work out that way, though. The lightning lit up the sky so often, nearly every second or two, that it ruined any hopes of night vision. The wind was blowing our truck all over the road. And the rain was so heavy that we dared not go more than 35 MPH. Shortly after we drove out of St. Louis, we abandoned our plans to drive late into the night and found the nearest hotel.
“Should we get some cheap tickets, or good seats?” I asked Clark as we approached the stadium in Denver.
“I want some good seats this time,” Clark said. “Maybe something in foul ball territory again.”
We knew that all the good seats would be taken if we were to go to the box office, and since the game was about to start, we knew scalpers would start to drop their prices.
“You got anything field level?” Clark asked the scalper.
“I got my own tickets. Two of them,” he said. “That’s all that’s left.”
“Can I see them?” Clark asked after we were told a price.
“Not till you pay first,” the scalper demanded.
“I’m not going to pay until I see you’re not trying to swindle me,” Clark informed him.
“Well, then you aint gettin’ these tickets,” the scalper said, and turned his back to us.
Sure enough, we went around to everyone else selling tickets and nobody had any tickets left. There was only one thing to do, and we went back to the first guy.
“You still have those tickets?” Clark asked him.
“Not for you I don’t,” he said.
“Why?” Clark pleaded. “We’re not doing anything shady. It’s just that we got taken advantage of once when someone switched the tickets on us.”
He looked at Clark and thought. He studied Clark, though we’re not really sure what he was trying to discover. The scalper wasn’t doing anything illegal, so even if we were cops or something we couldn’t hit him with anything.
“Fine,” he said. “You give me the money first and I’ll give you the tickets.
The tickets were real and the seats were great. We sat in similar seats to the ones we had in Philly- about 15 rows up, third base side, ground level. Déjà vu. And just like when we were in Philly, about the third inning or so, a foul ball popped up into the upper deck right above us. Déjà vu. This time, Clark didn’t have any baby in his arms, and he knew from before that foul balls don’t always stay in the upper deck, so he jumped up and turned around when I did. And just like it happened in Philly, the ball flopped out of the upper deck, hit something, and shot straight at us. Déjà vu.
“Here we go again,” I thought. “My biggest regret in life is dropping that last one and I will never let that happen to me again. No regrets. No regrets. No regrets.”
This time was different. My brother and I are exactly the same height, but my arms are a lot longer than his. The ball was actually coming straight at him, but, ya know, survival of the fittest. Long arms. More than 20 years of baseball experience all came into play at that very moment as I caught the pretty white ball in my hands. Clark’s hands were ready, but his short little T-Rex arms weren’t long enough to get there first and his hands ended up wrapped around my hands. Survival of the fittest. Natures way of saying that I deserved that ball. Maybe if he had a baby on his lap he would have had better luck. True story.