ASB Filler: Bush League Ballhawking
On I-Cub Opening Day in Des Moines this year, I bundled up and took a seat right behind the bullpen of the Oklahoma City Dodgers. During that first game of this 2018 season, Max Muncy, (sounds like a private eye, don’t you think?) grounded a foul ball down the right field line into the pen. A Dodger reliever retrieved it and casually flipped it to me, the 64-year-old kid shivering in the front row.
Ever since, both Muncy and I are having great seasons.
He was called up by Los Angeles later in April and slugged enough homerse to put him in the running for the final spot on the National League All-Star team. He got my vote(s).
I’m still in Triple A, but I’ve added seven more Pacific Coast League balls to the one that came my way off Muncy’s bat. Eight is a great total at the ASB and projects to a career year. I have a small suitcase full of PCL souvenirs in the closet at home, accumulated over many years as a bush league ballhawk. No small children, for the record, have ever been disappointed in the course of any of my acquisitions. One, our six-month-old #1 grandson, stands to inherit them at the proper time.
Just as little leaguers aspire to become big leaguers, I drew inspiration as an adult from the Waveland Avenue ballhawks who loiter on the perimeter of Wrigley Field in hopes of catching a clout from inside. Besides the ivy and the old scoreboard, the shrine’s best feature to me is that you can still actually partake of the game from the outside in a way less crass and contrived than the Gallagher Way. One of my favorite Chicago memories is getting to see the local premiere of the documentary film Ballhawks at the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2010 while in town for a Cub-Cardinal Memorial Day series.
Granted, my mementos aren’t big leaguers and they aren’t homers either, with a few notable exceptions, like the one blasted out of Principal Park last year by Victor Caratini before he graduated to the C-Cub roster. I found it down by the Des Moines River, well beyond the center field wall. I also have three batting practice homers that I fetched on road trips to Wrigley; two on Waveland Avenue and one on Sheffield the night they dedicated the Ron Santo statue. But almost all of my genuine, professional, game-used, FREE artifacts are fouled backwards or sideways into the parking lot. Last home stand, I found two just lying in wait for me as I walked to my car in the late innings to get a jump on postgame traffic.
Muncy was on the verge of giving up the game before suddenly blossoming this spring into full flower as a key player for one of the sport’s most storied franchises. So maybe I should reconsider my self-imposed exile from Wrigleyville in protest of the Ricketts GOP connections and return in hopeful pursuit of an actual big league home run ball. Street balls are even harder to come by post-Jumbotron, but some do still escape.
Hey, if 2016 can happen…