Throwing an opposing team's home run ball back at Citizens Bank Park has been debated since the day the beautiful facility opened. Personally, I have always been against throwing the ball back on to the field, leaving that tradition to the bleacher bums at Wrigley. That said, I've never caught a home run, so I'm not 100% sure what I'd do. Peer pressure and all, ya'know?
Last night, before things got really crazy in extra innings, friend of the Level and the man behind trying to bring the Athletics back to Philadelphia, J T. Ramsay caught the ball Carlos Lee belted into the left field seats off of Cole Hamels to give the Astros the a 2-0 lead. He promptly tossed the ball back onto the field.
Following the game, we asked J T. about his cannon/experience.
Enrico: Have you ever caught a ball before?
J T.: I've never caught a ball before. Not so much as a foul ball.
Sitting in left field has been pretty calm overall. Last homer that threatened Section 143 was a floater that Ben Francisco hit. Freaked me out because I had my infant son strapped to me. It landed harmlessly in the flower box.
Did you think before ever catching a HR ball that you'd keep it if it were to happen?
I've given this a lot of thought actually, since we're in row 10 in 143. It's always a possibility, but I stuck to the plan. Biggest fears about it? Not hitting the field and hitting a fan, or somehow beaning Raul if he had his back turned. Fortunately neither happened.
If a Phillie had hit it, and if I'd had my son with me, then, yeah, I would've kept it. But it was Carlos freakin' Lee and my son wasn't with me, so I threw it back. Felt pretty good, actually. Chances are that unless I suddenly learn a knuckleball, 45,000 people are never going to cheer me like that again in my lifetime.
Did you give in to the peer pressure or did you always want to throw it back?
Great question. Can I admit that I sort of think that it sucks that Philly adopted a pretty lame Cubs thing, which has become a trend around the league? And, really, if you're doing anything to emulate Cubs fans, you're probably forgetting the fact that they have a well-documented curse. We're past that. Doing this just seems silly to me.
All the same, it was cathartic. We never give Cole run support and a two-run bomb like that is just the sort of thing that makes lesser fans think he's a bum. I want to be on record that I think Cole has been amazing this year and that if our offense were anything like it has been, these homers would be harmless. Throwing it back felt like the only honest thing to do. Plus, it's the only time I'll probably ever throw a ball in a major league ballpark.
Peer pressure never really was a factor. Cheryl, one of the women who sits in front of me, just said, "Throw it back, J T." and I had to oblige her. We're family in Section 143.
Finally, how much did that game suck?
I have a controversial answer to this question! What if I said it didn't suck and that it exemplified what makes watching the Phillies at the ballpark such a pleasure? Seriously, the game was blazing along for a frustrating 9 innings, when suddenly J-Roll awakes from his torpor to tie it, which results in a marathon game that lasts nearly five and a half hours. When was the last time you saw Danys Baez come up big in a high leverage inning? NEVER!
Sure, the officiating was terrible. It has been often this season. MLB has noticed. But set that aside and consider the product on the field. The Phillies are frustrated. I wish they could fire Milt Thompson again. So do your readers, I bet. Howard has an awful night, gets taunted by the ump, blows a gasket and gets tossed.
What happens next will forever emblazon Roy Oswalt in Phillies folklore. This isn't LaRussa putting Lohse in left during that 20-inning disaster of a game. This is Roy Oswalt getting the Cliff Lee treatment for being a team player. Do you think there's any doubt in his mind he came to the right place now?
Will it suck if we miss the playoffs because we dropped two winnable games to the freakin' Astros? Absolutely. But games like this galvanize the Phillies faithful. You could've heard a pin drop in that place before Howard exploded. The crowd was going wild after 12 AM on a school night! The loss hurts, but you can't beat the experience.
Enrico: So there you have it. Throw a ball back if you want, but you don't have to.