To no surprise, I've received a lot of messages asking about how Michael caught Dustin's 1st home run ball and the events that followed, so here's a little write-up on one of the sweetest moments in our lives, and how it all came to be.
First, for a bit of back story. My dad, fiance Michael, and I are partial season ticket holders in section 107, row 30, seats 15-18. We are Seattle Mariners fanatics and always have been. Michael and my relationship even started over conversations about baseball. We attend at least 20 games a year, expecting nothing but a good time and, hopefully, a W. We never even take mitts to the game. (Kids always get the baseballs anyway, right?)
Saturday was my brother Thomas' 18th birthday. We had already attended 3 games that week, including Friday's, so we debated selling our tickets for Saturday night's game. (It also doesn't help that Thomas isn't a huge baseball fan.) But, nevertheless, we convinced him to spend his birthday at the ball park, which meant we would need 1 extra ticket--one for myself, Michael, Thomas, my dad, and my mom. I went on the Mariners website Wednesday morning and, as unbelievable as it sounds, there was 1 seat open in our row and it was seat 14! I instantly bought the ticket, clueless to the amazing experience it would bring us.
Saturday started off as a pretty normal day at the ballpark. We arrived early to receive the free Felix beanies, walked around The Pen, and eventually made our way to section 107, right behind Ichiro. Michael, who just so happens to be 6'4'', sat in seat 14 of row 30. The bottom of the 2nd inning rolled around and, after Felix got a little tossed around, we were ready for some runs. Ackley came up to bat and I squeezed Michael's knee like I always do, telling him to "get ready, this one's coming to you."
And then it happened. You could instantly tell the ball was coming towards us, it was just a matter of how many rows back it would go. (We've seen multiple home runs hit into our section, but they're usually in the first row or two, barely clearing the fence.) At first I thought, "naw, that will never make it's way to us," but there it was, plummeting towards us. I had my hand up momentarily, before I realized it wasn't coming to me--it was going straight to Michael. And then all I could think was, "don't drop it, don't mess this up, don't be that fan that drops the ball and someone else gets it." But, before I could vocalize any of these thoughts, Michael had the ball cupped in his right hand, shielding it with his left to keep it from dropping. Fist pumping the air, we immediately started jumping up and down, screaming, attempting to high-five, and whatever other ridiculous actions you may have seen on Root Sports.
After exchanging a few "I can't believe that just happened," security was at the end of the row to take us away. Since neither of us had previously experienced this, we really didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't even think to grab my purse (aka my camera) before we were taken down into the tunnel. On our way to the clubhouse, the security members briefly described what was going to happen, and by briefly I mean "we're taking you to the clubhouse to negotiate getting that ball back." We arrived at the clubhouse door and the manager came out--think clubhouse manager, not Wedge or Jack Z--and he thanked us for catching the ball and bringing it back unharmed. The conversation was pretty blunt, and he explained we'd receive a new signed ball in return. Michael asked for a bat and jersey also, but the manager said the jersey wouldn't be possible. (Do they even have Ackley jerseys available yet?) We also asked to meet Dustin, but that wasn't possible either seeing as he was still playing. Ultimately we agreed to the signed bat and ball, and handed over Dustin's ball after a few cell phone photos. (I haven't uploaded them yet, but that will be my next task.) We left the tunnel extremely happy, still rushed full of adrenaline. I didn't even catch the ball, but I was grinning for an hour straight.
Security escorted us back to our seats, explaining that our souvenirs would be brought to us in a few innings. It was only the end of the 3rd when we returned to our seats, but it felt as if hours had passed. The next 2 innings were filled with Michael glancing over his shoulder, waiting for security to reappear, and they finally did in the 5th. Delivered in 2 long white socks, we received one of Dustin Ackley's Big Sticks and a brand new ball, both signed. However, security told us to keep them wrapped until after the game, afraid the new signatures would smear if we looked at them now. So there we sat, unfortunately watching the M's lose, all while dying to open up the best present either of us had ever received.
After the game, we walked to the ferry terminal--we live in Bremerton--and opened the sock holding the bat before even boarding the boat. A few strangers came up and ooed and awed, and my mom even asked if she could play baseball with the bat. (Maybe if Dustin goes to the Yankees, eh? Just kidding. Dustin, please don't go to the Yankees.) We didn't open the sock holding the ball just yet, mostly because I was hiding it in my purse, desperately wanting to keep it untouched. But eventually we boarded the boat and were suddenly bombarded with questions that had never even crossed our minds. "Why didn't you ask for more?," one man asked. "I would have given you $5,000 for it," said another. Michael and I looked at each other and I remember thinking, "uh-oh, had we just been played?"
Eventually we made our way to a table, ignoring the strangers, and opened the sock with the ball. Out rolled a brand new baseball, complete with Dustin Ackley's signature and a little bit extra. Michael turned the ball so I could read what it said: "Thanks for my 1st homer!" And then everything else went away; the fear that we made the wrong decision, the flash of greed, the longing for more, all gone. At the end of the day, we had done what any true Mariners fan would have done. We never intended on keeping Dustin's 1st home run, nor did we extremely want to. That ball never belonged to us; it had always been Dustin's. It was a result of his hard work, his dedication to the sport, and his ability to crush a change up. Sure, Michael made a great catch, but he never wanted to keep something so important to his newest favorite Mariner. And neither did I.
Looking back on Saturday, I'm still 100% positive we did the right thing, the only thing really. If there are any regrets, it's the fact that we didn't get to meet Dustin. (Who knows, we might try and talk to him before a game this weekend.) What is most important is that a potentially great baseball player got his first home run ball back and that we, the fans, got to lend a hand in the excitement.
After all, what more could we want?
might have definitely would have traded it for a win.
Michael would also like to add, "looks like watching those Guti commercials finally paid off."