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April 27, 2012

BP Unfiltered

When to Give Away a Baseball

by Sam Miller

I doubt the world needs another piece on whether to give a foul ball to a nearby kid, but I happen to be sitting next to a nearby kid and she would like me to keep earning money for her college fund, so here the heck goes. 

There are nine ways to get a baseball: 

  • Home run that you catch
  • Home run that you pick up
  • Foul ball that you catch
  • Foul ball that you pick up
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you catch
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you pick up
  • Ball handed into the stands by a ball boy
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you catch
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you pick up

Generally, it's nice to put other people first. But there's no real obligation to give somebody something just because they also want that thing, and that goes for grownups, children, etc. However, if that thing is worth considerably more to the other person than it is to you—if it is, for instance, an asthma inhaler, and you don't have ashtma, and the other person is gasping for air—then it does become an ethical obligation. Increasing the amount of happiness in the world. Efficient use of happy-making products. 

So let's go over those nine ways to get a baseball, by the value that they have to you, as an adult: 

  • Home run that you catch: 10
  • Home run that you pick up: 7 or 8, maybe 9
  • Foul ball that you catch: 9
  • Foul ball that you pick up: 3
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you catch: 1
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you pick up: 1
  • Ball handed into the stands by a ball boy: 1
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you catch: 3
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you pick up: 1

And let's go over those nine ways to get a baseball, by the value that they have to a child: 

  • Home run that you catch: 9
  • Home run that you pick up: 9
  • Foul ball that you catch: 9
  • Foul ball that you pick up: 9
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you catch:9
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you pick up: 9
  • Ball handed into the stands by a ball boy: 9
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you catch: 9
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you pick up: 9

This is totally just an opinion, one unimportant man's opinion, and I won't judge you and I'm not judging that couple. I'm sure my mind would go blank and it wouldn't occur to me to give a ball away until four hours later. And there are all sorts of other circumstances where maybe the number you would place on a ball goes way up. If the difference was, say, 7 to you and 9 to the child, I'd say keep it. But it's usually not. Other than a home run, or a batted ball that you actually catch, there is very little reason to value or feel pride in that baseball. You didn't do anything to get the ball, you can't do anything with the ball. So it seems a bit wasteful to pass up the chance to make that kid's day. 

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Foul Balls

20 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

jnewfry
(131)

I think there's also a higher value to anyone if they have never caught or picked up or been handed a ball before despite having gone to hundreds of games since 1976. Not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything, but I'd have a hard time giving up my first home run/foul ball/whatever in over 30 years of baseball games.

Apr 27, 2012 13:39 PM
rating: 7
 
Noel Steere
(965)

One word: Decoy

Apr 28, 2012 09:43 AM
rating: 2
 
CRP13

What annoys me about this whole situation is that if you watch the video http://deadspin.com/5905512/do-you-deserve-that-foul-ball-consult-this-handy-chart you see that the child is clearly crying before the couple even picks up the ball. The child is crying before his own father ducks to try to get the ball.

For anybody that knows anything about kids this age, he was probably already irritable and fussy after sitting through EIGHT INNINGS of a baseball game, and then a round object that he is probably too young to identify as something cool comes buzzing about six inches from his face.

So he reacted like a 2-3 year old and started crying.

This is internet sensationalism of the worst kind by overreacting to a TV announcer who overreacted to something he probably couldn't see very well on a nine inch monitor while he was supposed to be watching what was going on in the field anyway.

Just ridiculous (not your post, the whole situation)

Apr 27, 2012 13:53 PM
rating: 12
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

Agreed with CRP13. The vitriol and hate aimed at the couple is positively disgusting. I have a problem with giving a crying kid what he wants simply because he is crying. Thankfully for this kid and his future, his parents agree - http://moms.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/27/11428418-crying-baseball-tots-mom-he-doesnt-get-everything-all-the-time

Furthermore, these people were wrongly vilified and Michael Kay should be embarrassed by his COLOSSAL overreaction and he probably should apologize to them on air.

I'm certainly OK with an adult handing over a ball to a child, but I'm tired of it no longer being a choice. Being young doesn't entitle the child to the ball anymore than the adult who acquired it in the first place.

Apr 27, 2012 15:01 PM
 
fgreenagel2

I've been to 300 games in 35 stadiums over a period of 24 years. I have never gotten a ball. I would like to catch a foul or homerun. I would not give it away. I'm not interested in a player tossing me a ball or getting one in BP. It's actually quite important to me to get one, and is one of my unfullfilled wishes in life.

Any ball after the 1st one, I'd almost certainly give away to a well behaved, deserving looking kid (wearing some team clothes (best would be a non-superstar player), perhaps a glove and certainly totally into the game to that point).

Apr 27, 2012 15:10 PM
rating: 2
 
divcoman

I've gotten two foul balls - both at the old ballpark in Arlington back in the eighties. The first was off the bat of Bill Stein. I still have it and wouldn't give to anyone ever. The second was a year or two later off the Twins Houston Jimenez. I gave it away to a five year old a few seats down the row who was crying for some reason. I got a completely undeserved round of applause.

There is a big difference between your first ball and any subsequent ones. I suspect I'd be willing to give away another caught foul under the right conditions. Now if I caught a homerun at Fenway, I suspect I'd feel very attached to it.

Apr 28, 2012 10:37 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

It makes me laugh that grown adults would not give a ball away. I've never caught one either, but I could care less. It's a ball and you're a middle aged man.

Apr 27, 2012 15:27 PM
rating: 1
 
Scott Gilroy

Why do you think the ball would mean anymore to the kid after 5 minutes. You make it sound like a middle aged man cant have a connection to baseball.

Apr 28, 2012 15:51 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

Agreed with jintman. Please explain how it automatically matters MORE to some child than a diehard adult fan? Maybe it doesn't matter to you, amazin, which is fine. But don't assume that the way you think is the same as everyone else and you certainly shouldn't judge someone who doesn't share that view.

Apr 30, 2012 16:06 PM
 
Ken Arneson

I disagree that the kid would rank all those things as a 9. Depends on the kid.

My kids have gotten balls tossed to them several times. They were happy at first, but every single time, they had completely misplaced the ball in their rooms by the next day, and forgotten about it.

At first, my oldest kid was probably a 3, and my second kid about a 5. By the next day, it's probably about 1 and 2. Now, they barely remember the events.

Meanwhile, an adult may not enjoy the initial moment better, but they may hold on to the enjoyment longer. What's more important, the initial peak pleasure of the moment, or the long-term enjoyment? It's not so simple an equation.

Apr 27, 2012 16:52 PM
rating: 5
 
whanson

The real crime is being a Yankee fan and having to listen to Michael Kay for 150 games a year.

Apr 27, 2012 17:47 PM
rating: 9
 
flyingdutchman

I'd advise you to simply look away from the gruesomeness of Michael Kay but that might lead you to the horror that is John Sterling. You're in a tough spot, and I feel for you.

Apr 29, 2012 07:49 AM
rating: 1
 
mkapellas

The last two times I got balls at games -- once while picking up a home run during BP at Camden Yards and the next time picking up a foul ball at a minor league game in Indianapolis -- I gave them to nearby kids.
The kids were ecstatic. Their parents, on the other hand, looked at me like I was offering their kids candy to get them into my windowless van.

Apr 28, 2012 00:05 AM
rating: 2
 
Noel Steere
(965)

Just read this to my wife, who says that you should have taken the ball back and said: "I'm sorry, your mommy and daddy don't want you to have this."

Apr 28, 2012 09:43 AM
rating: 1
 
craigburley

I generally felt this way when I was single. Now, though, most times I'd want the baseball for my kids.

I don't run for baseballs though. If I catch one, fine. I don't so scrabbling around the empty seats.

But I do understand fgreenangel2's view. My suggestion? Go to more minor league games.

My other suggestion is never, ever listen to Michael Kay.

Apr 28, 2012 05:15 AM
rating: 0
 
Keven K
(939)

A co-worker and I got some tickets to an indie league game in MN. My family could not attend so I gave my extra ticket to him and he brought his wife and daughter. I caught a foul ball over my shoulder and asked the elderly lady behind me if she had someone who would like the ball. She said her grandson would love it. I gave it to her, turned around and realized I had not given it to my co-worker's daughter. Felt horrible, still do, and righfully get crap for it evry BB season..... It is amazing the little things that gnaw at us over time.

I am also sick of the fans preasuring others to throw back home run balls from opposing teams. It was neat and original once.

Apr 28, 2012 06:56 AM
rating: 1
 
divcoman

I don't know what possesses these lunatics who throw back the home run balls from opposing teams. I might consider giving such a ball to a nearby kid. But I'd never throw it back on the field. Why? So the ballboy will scoop it up and give it to someone sitting down in the expensive seats along the field?

Apr 28, 2012 10:43 AM
rating: 0
 
Zach Brady

I hope that baseball fans are aware of Zack Hample. I've read a few of his books and, I don't know, guy must have super powers or something.

Over his lifetime he has caught nearly 6,000 baseballs from Major League Stadiums, including Barry Bonds 724th home run, the first home run of the 2007 Home Run Derby, the last home run hit in Shea Stadium, and Mike Trout's first ML home run. He also caught home runs on back-to-back nights in 2008 at Yankee Stadium.

http://www.zackhample.com/

Apr 28, 2012 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
jnossal

So much wasted effort.

Apr 29, 2012 19:13 PM
rating: 0
 
wpmulligan

The only time I caught a ball at a professional game was during a Carolina League contest. I turned and handed the ball the the kids next to me, much to the delight of the crowd. Of course, the kid is my son and I reclaimed the ball out in the parking lot. It now sits on my bookshelf at home.

Apr 30, 2012 11:22 AM
rating: 1
 
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