Flashback to 4/8/2014. The 45-year foul ball....Finally got one.
No, we're not really in the Mets locker room but we did get our hands on a foul ball! A day at Citi Field with Mrs. Gaffney and Skyy Elizabeth.
CITI FIELD: The ball comes towards you for what seems to be an eternity and a flash all at once.
When Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds lofted a foul ball in the direction of section 420, the most likely result seemed like a near miss or some serious palm pain.
I had, after all, agreed with my granddaughter Skyy Elizabeth when she decided to leave her glove in the car after she voted against carrying it around through the entertainment park that is now most major league ballparks.
Making the grab with the glove is cool for the highlight reel but there are hot dogs to eat (with pounds of ketchup), souvenirs to buy and blue Italian ices to devour.
You don’t really remember what is happening during that time, you just watch the ball and understand that it’s more than likely going to bounce.
We were sitting in the third row of 420, good seats at a real good price; really helps when you root for a team that always seems destined for 90-95 loses, despite what the GM, Sandy Alderson, may claim (the optimistic head guy has predicted a 90-win season).
Directly in front of us was a group of guys ranging in age from 23-50, not the easiest bunch to out maneuver for the ultimate fan prize.
Could have used a couple of guys fresh off some kind of knee surgery of hip replacement but the former was what I was bringing to the battle.
Sure, the walk from what seemed like LaGuardia Airport was a challenge but step by step, we toughed it out.
My knee is almost back but still locked at about 110 degrees (goal being 120-130), meaning it doesn’t fully allow for a smooth, fast walk quite yet.
It was a ballgame though, you suck it up.
I had after all, made the journey down last weekend for the UConn Huskies Elite Eight win over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden so if I could walk the couple of blocks from my parking spot on 29th and 7th, I could walk under the highway and over to Citi.
Skyy had never been to a major league game (I will stop my Yankee fans now who say she still hasn’t) and when I heard she was coming over for the weekend and the beyond obnoxiously long cold spring might just give us a 60 degree day, I hit Stub Hub and grabbed three tickets.
When you take a nine-year old, who is not a highly obsessed baseball fanatic but an enthusiastic softball player, to their first game you understand this is not going to be your fathers, sit in your seat for nine innings while keeping score of the entire game with an accurate pitch count kind of day.
I’ll do that soon enough with the spring sports season on deck so for this day, it was all about the experience.
I had prepared Skyy a bit the night before with stories of when we took her mom, Nina and Auntie Kim to their first game years back when Shea Stadium was more than a memory in the parking lot of the walking billboard that is Citi Field.
When Deb and I took them to their first game, it astounded them how much was going on and what they could do, and were encouraged to do that they were told not to do at home our out at a restaurant.
The loud music, the occasional yell (for no apparent reason) by a zealous fan or those planes that seemed just a bit too close for comfort.
I had to let them know it was okay to just let loose, enjoy the moment, the environment while rooting for the correct team.
As the ball started to gain altitude and the direction seemed to be zeroing in on us, Team Gaffney (Grandma and Pa anyway, Skyy went low, good serve self-preservation instinct) went into action.
Priorities first. We both put our beers down. Nothing worse than being that fan who tosses his beer on a loved one or unsuspecting stranger in order to try and get to a ball like it was a life-line on a sinking ship.
We would not be those people who forget humanity in order to get their hands on a foul ball, regardless of the carnage around us.
It’s a time to keep cool, understanding that a lot of things have to go right in order for the ball to end up in your hands and not just a bounce by you on the way to the balls new owner.
I can’t verify what happened next because yeah, it does happen pretty fast. All I knew was that I think the ball bounced off the guys in the first row, bounced into the second and somehow ended up pin-balling right at my feet.
Near the not-working-so-well left leg. How fast do I bend? How do I explain it to my therapy guy or doctor how I re-injured a leg I have worked real hard to get better?
The jokes would be flying fast and furious so caution and cool headedness had to be the rule of the day.
See the ball, get the ball. Nice and easy. Focus.
Oh no, a hand is swiping back from the row in front of me. Missed, sucker. Good try.
Sorry, ball hogging got the best of me there for a minute.
What I did not realize was that at the same time, Deb was creating a force field around us through sheer grandmotherly will.
In case you don’t know what that is, trust me, you will bounce off that puppy and out into deep space if you come in contact, Jennifer Lawrence blowing that arrow through the dome in Hunger Games 2, style.
I did not hear it but she told me the words “Back off” came blistering out towards any who may decide to throw disregard towards the health and well-being of both her granddaughter and husband.
Don’t mess with momma G when it comes to her family. Enter the area at your own risk.
I cleanly picked up the ball, a pure sense of disbelieve front and center in my mind and handed it to a now recovering to an upright position Skyy Elizabeth, after announcing with pride to my section (once you have the ball, we’re all friends again) that after 45-years of coming to Mets games, we get one on Skyy’s first try.
Cheers rang out and folks congratulated Skyy and me for our accomplishment.
Funny, even on the way out (after the third inning) we got pats on the back for our first ball.
We didn’t leave after the third inning though and that ball didn’t leave Skyy’s hand either, hot dog or no hot dog.
With a variety of things to keep kids busy (aside from the MLB game in front of them) we let Skyy soak in and enjoy the being at the Mall feeling you get at major league entertainment centers nowadays.
She and Grandma tried to drop the Reds guy in the dunk tank (sans water, wimp), Pa has no landed leg at the moment.
What a poor excuse for not wanting to stand in line for 20-minutes for three balls that would more than likely be far off target.
Shockingly, the Mets lost, 2-1. No Ike Davis walk-off grand slam for us this day.
Skyy walked out the her first Mets game proudly displaying a grey Mets cap that almost came down over her shoulders but she liked it and I have to admit, it was pretty cool seeing her in it.
She sported a new Mets hoody with a blazing Mets design down one sleeve, looked cool.
She was going to wear it to school on Monday while bringing in her ticket and the prized baseball.
Yeah, nobody is going to take that ball from her.
Grandma’s force field covers a very large area.