Scenes from Spring Training: Easy come, easy go

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Know what I have never done? I have never caught a foul ball at a baseball game. At least not a major league game.

The only time I got anything was at a single-A game in Myrtle Beach back in 1989, and that hardly counts as the park then was smaller than some high school stadiums and there were only a few dozen people in the place.  Otherwise: bupkis. Nothing at double-A, triple-A or major league games. It never much mattered to me — I’ve written about how souvenirs aren’t that important to me —  but the fact still stands.

Or stood. Until yesterday.

I was at the Angles-Indians game in Goodyear. I was hanging out with Jonah Keri and, because that park’s very small press box was full, we asked if we could squat in one of the empty luxury suites. The ballpark folks obliged, so we took in the game from the front row of the outdoor balcony, above the screen, directly behind home plate.

Midway through the game — not long after Jonah and I actually discussed the fact that I had never snagged a ball — Felix Pie came to bat. He fouled one up and back and it landed on the nearly empty suite level, just down the outdoor patio from me.  Jonah said “There! There’s your chance! Go get it.” And I believe he was only 85% mocking me.

I slow-jogged over to get it — didn’t want to appear too eager — picked it up and admired it.

Just then Jonah said that he thought that there was a boy who would really like to have it. I turned around and there was a boy — maybe 10 or 11 years-old — who had been sitting on the far side of our level, looking hopefully in my direction. I gave it half a second’s thought, walked the ball over and gave it to him.

It wasn’t a hard decision. Just as Jonah pointed the kid out I was already beginning to think how silly it would be for me to keep the ball and that maybe I’d drop it down to a kid in the seats below us (though it was kind of far and might have hurt someone, so perhaps I would have had to keep it as a matter of public safety).  But there was a brief moment when I thought “wait, no fair!”

But it passed. And I guess now the question is whether I can say that I’ve snagged a baseball at a major league game.  It was in Arizona, not a big league ballpark. And I guess it was Felix Pie, and he only qualifies as a major leaguer at this point under only the loosest standards. And of course I didn’t walk away from the game with a ball.

Screw it. It counts. I got a ball.

On to Maryvale to see the Brewers today. At least I think. Over breakfast I may decide to pull a crazy Ivan and hit Scottsdale for the Reds and Giants. I dunno. I’m all discombobulated over yesterday’s events now, so who knows where I’ll end up.

Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name

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The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan report that Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name as recently as December. The fake name is Mason Saunders. Bumgarner explains that “Mason” is shortened from “Madison,” while “Saunders” is his wife’s maiden name.

Bumgarner — err, Saunders — and one of his rodeo partners, Jaxson Tucker, won $26,560 in a team-roping rodeo competition in December. The Rancho Rio Arena posted a picture of the pair on Facebook, highlighting that they roped four steers in 31.36 seconds.

As Baggarly and Buchanan point out, Bumgarner also pointed out in a rodeo competition last March, just a couple days before pitching in a Cactus League game versus the Athletics, back when he was still with the Giants.

Bumgarner suffered bruised ribs and a left shoulder AC sprain in 2017 when he got into a dirt bike accident. Given that, Bumgarner’s latest extracurricular activity does raise a concern for the Diamondbacks, who inked him to a five-year, $85 million contract two months ago. Baggarly and Buchanan asked Bumgarner about such a concern. Bumgarner referred them to the club’s managing partner Ken Kendrick. Kendrick directed them to GM Mike Hazen. Hazen declined speaking about “specific contract language.” For what it’s worth, Bumgarner says he primarily uses his right hand to rope.

The jig is up on Bumgarner’s hobby. He jokingly said to The Athletic’s pair, “I’m nervous about this interview right now.” He added, “I’m upset with both you two.”