Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Fly Route

June 21, 2007

I've been to hundreds of sporting events in my life, both as a fan and as a journalist. It wasn't until last weekend that I finally realized a lifelong sports-related dream, however.

I finally caught something thrown/handed/shot into the audience. It was at the Royals game Saturday against the Florida Marlins, and for a few moments it was one of the most exciting and proud moments of my life.

I always try. I've jumped for T-shirts and foul balls (though rare is the day one is even hit in my section, let alone within grabbing range.) I've waved and hollered, stood and shouted. I've picked out individual passer-outers to focus my attention on and I've flailed about indiscriminately.

My odds seemed best in high school. The cheerleaders would throw plastic footballs or basketballs into the stands during timeouts, grabbing them from giant, overflowing sacks hidden under the bleachers.

I never came close. The yell leaders would always have a throw-it-as-far-as-possible contest, while the girls would hand them off to the guys they were chasing (another big flaw in my not-so-self-imposed plan not to date cheerleaders.)

I should have struck gold in college, too (we're back on free stuff again ... I didn't anticipate the change from small high school to major university would change my luck with the cheerleaders.) Willie the Wildcat always blasted T-shirts into the student section with his air cannon. It would have taken a lucky shot during football season, but I was at nearly every basketball game, as well. I must be the only Jim Wooldridge-era survivor to have not caught something. The cleaning crew probably even snared a few freebies from the unpopulated and rarely visited outer regions of Bramlage Coliseum.

I long ago opted not to get pathetic about it. Some people make the big signs asking for a giveaway. Others craft giant baseball mitts or bring a fishing net.

I don't always buy Royals tickets in foul ball prone areas, and I don't stand around out by the fountains waiting for a home run.

I could always go into the stadium early enough to watch batting practice, but I'd much rather grill with friends in the parking lot as I did Saturday.

The grilling was really what made Saturday such a good day. We started well before the 6 p.m. game, and we made brats -- I make the best brat you've ever had, by the way. The weather was perfect and we had a big group of friends gathered.

The member of our party in charge of securing tickets mistakenly bought the most expensive ones available, so we even had great seats. They got even better late in the game as we moved lower and closer to home plate to sit with another group of friends.

That's when it happened. It was late in the game and the Royals were trying to rally from a 9-3 deficit. They scored three in the seventh, then added one more in the eighth, pulling to within two. I was as excited and into the game as I'd been all day. Maybe that was it: I was locked in.

Some sort of Royals cheerleading group got up on the dugout and started throwing all sorts of awesome stuff into the crowd. T-shirts and bags went whizzing by, and finally I jumped and with the absolute longest part of my middle finger stabbed through the tinfoil wrapper of my prize.

Yes, I caught a hot dog. It wasn't shot out of Slugger's hot dog gun -- a guy can only ask for so much, right? Still, something free was mine! Take that high school cheerleaders! Take that $32 Royals tickets!

I wasted no time, ripping away the last of the foil and biting down hard into ... one of the coldest non-frozen pieces of meat I've ever encountered.

It was not worth it.

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