Sunday, August 16, 2009

Of Foul Balls and Typing Monkeys

I've been watching baseball for over forty years, since the late 1960's. Not continuously, of course, although my wife might argue otherwise. I'm a huge sports fan to begin with, but baseball was my first love as a kid and it remains my favorite sport today, barely edging football and anything with cheerleaders for the top spot.

As a long-time Red Sox fan, I've pretty much seen it all: No-hitters and thirty-run games, World Championships and epic collapses, pitchers throwing no-hitters and batters hitting for the cycle, miraculous comeback wins and debilitatingly depressing defeats.

But in all the time I've spent watching professional baseball, I have never seen what I saw during the Red Sox-Texas Rangers game today in the steamy afternoon heat of Arlington, Texas.

In the fifth inning of a game in which the Rangers were leading the Red Sox 3-2, Texas' Josh Hamilton fouled a pitch from Junichi Tazawa in the air down the third base line. The ball ended up in the second deck,where it was caught for a souvenir by a kid who looked like he was maybe ten or twelve years old. Nothing special there; the kid had come prepared, wearing his glove, ready and waiting for the exact opportunity that presented itself.

On the very next pitch from Tazawa, Hamilton again fouled a ball in the air down the third base line, in the exact same spot as the previous ball, where it was caught by the exact same kid!

I'm no mathematician, so I have no idea what the statistical odds against that situation occurring might be. I have seen, on very rare occasions, the same fan get two balls hit to him or her in the same game, but on consecutive pitches? Never. Not even close.

The stadium the Texas Rangers play in holds close to fifty thousand people, although there were not that many people at today's game. So if you can imagine a structure large enough to hold that many people, and then imagine an object the size of a baseball being thrown at around ninety miles an hour to a batter trying to hit it with a stick, and further imagine that ball ending up in the same spot on two consecutive pitches, you don't even have to be a sports fan to appreciate the sheer unlikelihood of that happening.

Not to beat a dead horse (why would you want to do that anyway?), but I just can't wrap my mind around what I saw in that game today. Maybe it's just the oppressive heat getting to me, maybe nobody else cares about two August foul balls in a Major League Baseball game, but that was the sports equivalent of the old theory that if you let a monkey type random letters on a keyboard long enough, eventually you will get Shakespeare.

His work, that is, not the actual guy, who as we all know is long dead. That would just be gross. And boring.

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