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.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.