ST. LOUIS – Catching a home run ball is on the bucket list for many baseball fans. It doesn’t happen often; and usually there is a bit of timing and good luck involved.
A lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan almost went home with two home run balls after Monday night’s win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Instead, he just missed two hard-hit souvenirs.
Austin Bears, a 25-year-old native of St. Charles, earned two front-row bleacher seats in left field for him and his girlfriend just hours before Monday’s game. That wasn’t the only decision he had to make on a whim that night.
“We were joking as we got out of the car and I was like, ‘Do I bring my glove from the trunk?'” he said. “Because I always keep my glove in my trunk. I said, ‘No, I’m a grown man, I can handle it.’”
It wasn’t until a few hours after he entered Busch Stadium that the Bears wished he had his mitt with him. With many bigger boppers in the Battle of the Birds, perennial All-Stars George Springer and Paul Goldschmidt would be the ones to test Bears’ talent.
In the sixth inning, Blue Jays outfielder George Springer smoked a 113 mile range drive who cleared the field in just 3.6 seconds. Bears says the ball landed straight off his right pinky and ring fingers into the stands.
“I kind of lost it in the light,” Bears said. “I see it coming straight at me and taking a quick tail to the right. So I reach out my hand to try and catch it, and there’s this black railing right in front of it. It hit my pinky and ring finger in the splint. When my hand touched the rail, the ball just bounced way back. I saw the gentleman who got it.
Bears, while disappointed that he didn’t land the first ball, met the man who landed it and snapped a photo. He even gave the fan a suitcase he had brought in anticipation of a home run ball.
While Bears narrowly missed that ball, he had his eye on redemption. The next time came with higher stakes. Paul Goldschmidt comes to the plate with the bases loaded in extra innings. Goldschmidt counts with 1:2 hit a pitch to the left field grandstands.
“Time froze for a second first when he hit that,” Bears said. “You hear the bat hit and you say, ‘That was hit hard. Immediately I was like, ‘Holy shit, this is coming our way again, it’s going to be tight.’”
Like Springer, Goldschmidt sent a laser to the seats just below Big Mac land territory. Bears would have another shot at a home run ball.
“It was pretty low and I reached over the railing [in home run teritory],” Bears said. “It nails me right in the palm of my hand. It hit me so hard I couldn’t push fast enough. That was crazy.”
As the 30,000 faithful erupted at Goldschmidt’s walk-off grand slam, Bears came to the realization that he had missed two opportunities he might never see again at a ball game. Several family members and friends have reached out to him and his in the moments that followed bittersweet feelings during the walkoff home run celebration attracted attention via social media.
“I couldn’t believe I had a chance to cash in the Springer HR and that ball hits me right in the hands and I drop it,” Bears said. “It was just too funny.”
Corresponding Baseball AlmanacGoldschmidt’s home run was one of only around 200 times a player has finished the game with a grand slam since 1876. Bears couldn’t quite hit the home run, but instead has an injured hand.
“It hurts quite a bit,” Bears said Wednesday. “It was really red and swollen, I just iced it up a bit when I got home. I was kind of surprised how hard they got hit and how fast they came at me that I don’t have broken fingers or anything like that.”
Had Bears hit both home runs, he would have overcame some very challenging chances. Corresponding ESPNa Stanford professor estimated in 2005 that the odds of catching two balls in the same game could be as high as 1 in 5,000.
Surprisingly, a similar situation unfolded at an Astros-Red Sox game at Fenway Park last week. Corresponding MLB.coma fan landed two home runs over the Green Monster, the tallest left field wall in all of baseball, not only in the same game but also in the same inning.
“When we first got to the stadium, I told my girlfriend about it as we were getting to our seats,” Bears said. “I told her about this story and I was like, ‘How crazy is that?’ Chances of that guy catching her too. Kudos to this guy for getting down with both of them.”
Though he didn’t end up with home run balls from Springer and Goldschmidt in the end, the Bears would be sure to make the most of the night. He met Cardinals rookies Nolan Gorman, Matthew Liberatore and Ivan Herrera after the game and got them all to sign a baseball.
“Nolan [Gorman] found out I was the guy who dropped the Goldy Homer and he was like, “Oh, you did that.” He was like, “Oh man,” and I said, “Yeah, that was me.”
Though Bears didn’t come home with two extra souvenirs, he said it was arguably one of the best Cardinals games he’s ever attended. He also found additional inspiration to go to Monday night’s game. It was Fans Fight Cancer Night at the ballpark. Bears wanted to honor his grandfather and his grandfather’s best friend, both of whom have died of cancer in recent years.
“I really love these two guys and they’ve been a huge part of my life,” Bears said. “I think those two guys would have just had fun with the whole thing. Maybe they had something to do with it and wanted to see if I could catch it without bringing my glove.”
Bears says he will make sure to bring his glove in the stands for future games. Despite missing two chances, he said it was a night unlike any he’d experienced at Busch Stadium.
“If I should meet Goldy one day, I will tell him this story. Same goes for jumpers,” Bears said. “It’s a story I have to tell everyone about all the time. not have that [Goldschmidt] Ball stinks, but having this story is worth so much more.”
https://fox2now.com/sports/st-louis-cardinals/cardinals-fan-just-misses-two-home-run-balls-including-goldys-walkoff-but-ends-up-with-priceless-memories/ Cardinals fan misses just two home run balls, including Goldy’s walkoff, but priceless memories remain at the end