I wore my red, orange and white chevron-striped sweater to work Wednesday for a few good reasons.
One, it looks good with jeans, and I was wearing jeans to our Sun Herald outing to MGM Park to watch the Biloxi Shuckers take on the Mobile BayBears that evening.
Two, the office can get chilly, and the loose weave of the sweater would keep me warm during the workday but allow ventilation at the park.
And three, and perhaps the main reason, I wanted to be seen by the people who throw the T-shirts to fans. I am 5 feet tall and easily get lost in a crowd. But not when I’m wearing orange and red.
My close friends Paul and Virginia Newton were with me. It was their first Shuckers game and their first time at MGM Park. We were sitting in the second row from the field in the “watch out for fly balls” area.
A couple of innings into the game, we agreed we were a bit too close, so we moved to three seats no one had claimed just a couple of rows below the concourse.
The T-shirt people came out on the field, and I wildly waved my arms, in the spirit of a Mardi Gras parade, but not one of them even so much as looked at me. OK, they’ll be back, I assured myself, and settled back into my seat.
Then a batter hit the ball, which landed far out in right field, bounced with unexpected force off the field and onto the nearby roof over the concourse with a loud ‘PING!’ then down onto the concourse behind us. From there, it sprang far up into the air, and the entire stadium seemed to hold its collective breath as the ball seemed to take forever to drop. I saw it coming. It was coming close. Very close. Somebody I knew was going to catch it.
And then, there it went. Into my empty cup holder, where it settled.
All I could do was stare, my mouth open. People around me were cheering and screaming and asking their friends, “Did you see that? Did you see that?” All I could think was, “Did that just happen?” I stood up and held up the ball to much applause.
I let go of my T-shirt dream as I held the Rawlings ball, smelling its real leather scent, examining its scuffs and clay-colored scars, feeling the red thread stitches. “Official Ball Southern League,” it stated, with the signature of league president Lori M. Webb below it. It was real, and like a homing device, it had seemed to seek me out, the girl who always got the least demanding softball position in PE in school because of my less-than-stellar ball-bat coordination. My pitching was even worse.
But this night, I was a minor league baseball star, and I owned it.