A Baseball, Long Overdue

My middle daughter Kari is still waiting for her baseball souvenir.
I will try to get her one someday. But on Aug. 12 at the Cleveland Indians-Minnesota Twins game at Target Field, it just wasn’t to be.
My story begins when Kari, who is now a married woman with two children of her own, was 5 – maybe 6 – years old. I was in the Metrodome watching the Windom Eagles in the Minnesota state baseball tournament at the time, with my wife, Sandy, Kari and Sandy’s nephew Neil in attendance with me. We were seated many rows up from behind the batter’s box, a little toward the third base side, and a batter fouled off a pitch that evaded the net screening behind home plate and whizzed directly toward me.
I didn’t even have to lift my rump off the molded plastic seat. I reached up with my left hand, grabbed the airborne ball securely in my palm, and without thinking handed it to little Neil, who was only a couple of years older than Kari and someone I figured would appreciate a new baseball to play with.
An hour and a few Nachos and watered-down sodas later, the game was over. We went home.
That game was virtually erased from my memory until many years later when Kari, as an adult, brought it to my attention one day.
“Dad, remember that game where you caught a baseball and gave it to Neil?” she began.
“Yeah, I think I remember. Why?”
“Why did you give it to Neil instead of me?” she asked.
I struggled for an answer.
“Uh, I don’t know. I don’t think I really thought about it much?”
“I would have loved to have that baseball, you know,” she continued. “I mean, just because I’m not a boy didn’t mean I wouldn’t have liked for my dad to give me that baseball. I was actually hurt about it at the time, though I didn’t say anything …”
Of course. Yeah, of course she would have wanted that baseball. What was I thinking? Obviously, I wasn’t thinking at all.
I apologized. I said I was sorry, I didn’t realize how important something like that would be to a child – boy or girl – to have her baseball-loving father pass along a memento like that to his flesh and blood.
So I told her that I’d correct the mistake someday.
I was hoping that day would arrive Aug. 12. It was a day I’d been anxiously waiting for for months. Kari and her thoughtful husband Mike had given me a day at a Twins game as a Father’s Day gift. They arranged for a babysitter for their little boys Jake and Nix, and on a beautiful late Monday afternoon the three of us drove from Mankato to Minneapolis to take in the Twinkies.
“Tonight’s the night,” I promised my daughter. “Tonight I’m going to catch a baseball and I’m giving it to my little girl.”
I instructed Mike that if a ball came our way in leftfield, his job was not to try to catch it, but deflect it my way.
In the first inning, the Twins’ Brian Dozier homered to leftfield, but the drive landed a ways to our left. Trevor Plouffe homered a little bit later, but to straightaway centerfield. I waited. And waited. Whenever a righthanded power hitter stepped up to the plate – like the Twins’ Josh Wittingham – I lifted my hands in the receiving position and glanced at Kari. She smiled, hopeful.
At this time in our lives, catching a baseball from a major league baseball game meant much more to me than it did to Kari. She has moved on from that day at the Metrodome. She’s forgiven me. But I haven’t completely forgiven myself. I had to get a baseball. Not for Kari the grown-up girl that she is now, but for Kari the little girl that she was then.
The game ended without a baseball landing in our section. In the end, I didn’t even come close.
But we walked off, the three of us, with happy smiles. Kari and I were arm-in-arm.
Sure, it would have been nice to get a baseball on Aug. 12. It would have been icing on the cake. But, honestly, I can’t remember a Father’s Day gift that meant more to me. It was a day at the ballpark, just the three of us, and we had a wonderful time.
But next time … a baseball … for sure.