Eight years ago during a professional baseball game, I made up for a fielding error I had committed earlier that season.
OK, that’s misleading. I was a spectator in both cases, not a player.
But redemption was mine, thanks to Jeff Bailey of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Earlier in the 2008 season at a minor-league game in Syracuse, I had a chance to snag a souvenir foul ball, but I tried to one-hand it instead of using two as I had been taught in Little League. The ball caromed off my right palm and ended up in the mitts of a kid a few rows away.
According to baseball code, I would have given the ball to a kid anyway. But at least I would have had the satisfaction of a clean catch, followed by a magnanimous gesture. As it was, my hand hurt like hell for a week, compounding the shame.
If you’re scoring at home, it’s E-10.
I returned to the ballpark later that season to watch the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Class AAA farm team of my Boston Red Sox, with my son and his girlfriend.
The crowd at that game on June 30, 2008, was so sparse that the three of us literally had a second-deck section all to ourselves.
Like all “glory days” moments, I can vividly recall my nifty fielding play (with a little help from what I wrote on the ball later). In the top of the third inning, Bailey fouled off a pitch to the first base side, up and over our heads.
We turned to see the ball hit a column or a seat, take one hop back down toward us and directly into my (two) hands.
As there were no kids in our section, I held onto the ball the rest of the game and took it home. It has had a place of honor ever since — in the man cave, of course, with all my other Red Sox and Ohio State football memories.
I always wondered what happened to Bailey, so I looked up his stats. He’s one of thousands of ballplayers good enough to make it to the major leagues, but just not good enough — or healthy enough — to stay for long.
I took heart in seeing that Bailey had six career home runs for the parent Boston Red Sox, including one during the 2007 championship season. He toiled in Pawtucket for six seasons and also made cameos in Boston later in 2008 and 2009. He played a couple of more seasons in the minors and then … disappeared from the baseball radar.
So Jeff Bailey, wherever you are, thank you for hitting that foul ball, one of thousands you probably hit since you were a kid, against hundreds of pitchers in dozens of minor-league cities you saw during your 15-year career.
The other important character in this story, the Syracuse pitcher that inning, was Davis Javier Romero, who appeared in a total of seven games in the majors before his career apparently ended in 2009. Romero’s lifetime major-league stats? 16.1 innings, 3.86 earned run average, 1 win, no losses.
I’ll remember him more for one strike he threw in the minor leagues.
Footnote: The ballpark in Syracuse, home of the Chiefs, has had several name changes. Now NBT Bank Stadium, it was Alliance Bank Stadium in ’08. It’s also been P&C Stadium, which — despite what I told first-time visitors — did not feature strategically placed urinals where male fans could watch the game while taking care of zipper business.