What Would You Do If You Caught A Historic Home Run Baseball?

Picture this…Your local Little League baseball field, for time purposes let’s use Wilson Park’s Cooney Field, is abuzz one particular Saturday night in June. The local press is there (probably Will from the Independent Newspaper in the press box) along with yours truly. Youth baseball players from other teams are crowding the backstops, lining the perimeter of the foul lines and outfield fences. Parents have called in family and friends from out of town to the game. By the time, the lineup cards are announced, the stands around Cooney Field are packed and there is literally no “seat in the house.” Social media posts have created a ground swell of publicity for a very special event. That event…a local North Kingstown Wickford Little League slugger (player to be named later) is on the cusp of a historic milestone. He is about to break a 38 year home run record for Rhode Island Little Leaguers, set originally by yours truly with the Wickford Little League’s Junior Police, and tonight is the last regular season game on the NKW schedule for him to break it. One last night for him to break a nearly 40 year old record and go into the Rhode Island Little League record books.

And even though it is my record, I am one of his biggest fans to break the record. He told me during a batting practice session earlier in the Spring that he worked very, very hard on his swing all winter indoors and in his backyard and in his garage. He told me he probably worked on his swing about 2 to 3 hours per day for like 5 months, quoting him as he whacked ball after ball in the batting cage area. He put the work in, his extra efforts perfected a new and improved swing, and the results on the field were eye-popping to say the least. I was happy to cheer for him because in my heart, he put the work in, he deserved it – 100%!

The game starts and the crowd noise fills the Wickford air and anticipation grows with every pitch to every batter not named (player to be named later). And then, in the bottom of the 2nd inning, there he stepped up to the plate. After the NKW announcer, perhaps the legendary Arnie Sarazen was called in for the game, makes the announcement, the player steps to the plate. It’s a night game but he is wearing his customary eye black under both eyes. His hair flows out from the bottom of his helmet. He’s not the tallest player in the league but definitely in the top 5. He is however the player most opposing leagues ask for his birth certificate, because his frame befits that of a 16 year old, not a 12 year old. Confirmed, he is league age 12, actually he is only (actual age) 11 to be honest. The crowd cheers and screams – kids of all ages are into this one hook, line, and sinker. The pitcher gets a special baseball with the words “HR KING” written on it to separate it from other HR baseballs potentially hit that night. The stage is set, the batter is in the box, the pitcher has his sign, the drama is about to begin.

The first pitch he sees (player to be named later) is a ball. The lights from Wilson Park’s Cooney Field have already taken effect and the lights from cell phones created a lighting like effect. The player steps out and takes a gigantic breathe – chest swelling, shoulders pulled back, then a huge exhale like he blowing 12 candles for his 12th birthday (due in October). He steps into the batter’s box, kicks some dirt with his back leg, then sets his focus on the pitcher. The pitcher winds up and throws a straight fastball up and a little bit outside and then it happens. The player swings to meet the baseball and lines a frozen rope over the right fielder who is standing 5 feet from the fence, over the outfield fence, and down a small path that leads to the neighborhood which abuts the field and is located behind the North Kingstown Police Department station. Fans cheer, the player rounds the bases and receives high fives from opposing players at 1st, 2nd, SS, 3rd base and then is greeted at home plate by his teammates, his coaches, the game is paused so his parents can go out and congratulate him, Will hops down from the press box to get a photo of the player and his family for a great story he will write, and I just smile and take in the whole wonderous Rhode Island Baseball Experience.

And then my attention, being that I am higher up and can see the whole field and surrounding area, is drawn to a massive crowd running towards the aforementioned neighborhood and after the historic baseball with the “HR KING” printed on the baseball designating it as the historic baseball. I wait and watch as the crowd of historic baseball fetchers converge about 100 feet from the fence and I can sort of make out a bicycle and a man on the bicycle in the middle of all of it. Parents start to make their way out to the crowded spot to see what the younger kids, the ball fetchers as I dubbed them, are doing out there and where is the historic baseball? After Will got his photos, the umpires asked the players to get back to their positions and for the game to resume play. Which it did. And I waited and watched in the press box for the ball to come back. But it never did.

The crowd that had gathered past the right field fence, including the baseball fetchers and the adults/parents, were now making their way back to the playing field area and bringing bad news. I took the stairs down from the press box and immersed myself into the crowd of disappointed and frustrated fans and asked the question on everyone’s mind, “what happened to the HR King baseball?” A little girl heard me and said, “the man won’t give it back.” Won’t give it back? I asked. One of the parents chimed in, “yeah, he wants something for it.” What? I asked could he possibly want for a Little League baseball hit by an 11 year old kid. Did anyone tell him the significance of this home run, I asked the crowd. “That’s the problem, the whole crowd was telling this guy about what a big deal it was,” said a parent, “and then the guy was like ‘cool, I’ll talk to the parents about paying me for it. If the baseball is worth something to them, it’s gotta be worth something for me. Finders keepers, losers weepers.’ Or something like that. And then he sped off down towards the boat launch on his bike.” Wow, that was something I did not expect to see or experience on a night filled with so much positive energy.

In the stands watching the game was an off duty Warwick policeman. I knew him from years passed and asked him what should happen next. “I’ll go take a ride down there with you if you want, but I’m really not comfortable doing much more than being a ride,” he said, “after all, we don’t really know the circumstances on how he got the ball or if it was just a random happening. Let’s not get crazy here.” I agreed to do the talking and the policeman and I drove down to the boat launch, where we found the bicycle I saw from the press box parked and a man on the dock fishing. The policeman parked the car and nodded his head, “I’m not going with you.” I said no problem, and walked down the short dock to greet the man. “Hey there, I’m Noel, did you just catch a baseball at Wilson Park?” I asked, pretty much knowing the answer. “Yep, here it is,” and he pulled the baseball out of his vest pocket next to his left upper arm and showed it to me. It was kind of dark, so I took out my camera phone and turned on the flashlight to shine a spotlight on the baseball. There were the words “HR KING” printed clear as day. “You want to be a good guy and let a kid and his family have a memento they will cherish for a lifetime?” I inquired. “Yep, as soon as I talk to the parents and they compensate me, I will gladly hand over the ball. Are you one of the parents?” he asked, very calmly I might add. “Nope, I’m just a baseball fan and I happened to be at the game because this kid just broke my nearly 40 year home run record tonight.” The man nodded several times as he reeled in his line with no fish on it. “Well, you tell the parents that I want something for the baseball and here is my card where they can contact me, ” to which the man handed me his business card, which read First Wickford National Bank VP (person to be named later). I nodded to him and said sort of sheepishly, “I hope you catch something tonight.”

I returned to the car, the policeman friend of mine drove back to the game, which was now approaching its final innings, made my way back up to the press box, told the people in the press box about the man and his demands, and finished watching the game with a deflated sense of it all. When the game finished, Will asked me and the new HR King of Rhode Island Little League to get on the field for a photo and we obliged. The parents, news travels fast, met up with me and I handed them the VP’s card and the VP’s instructions on how they could “obtain” the HR KING baseball. “You have got to be joking right?” asked the distraught mother of the player. “Nope, this is real. He is pretty firm on this one.” I said sadly and the player, his parents, and the entire Wilson Park baseball community walked off towards their cars with a bit of a bad taste in their mouths. A new HR KING was crowned and at that point, there was no sign of the historic baseball nor what it would take to “obtain” the baseball.

How are you feeling about this scene, fictional nonetheless, but somewhat relevant to another historic home run recently hit? Do you agree with the man who just happened to be biking by Wilson Park that Saturday night, reached down and grabbed the baseball before a crowd of 50 to 60 little kids did? Do you agree with his demands and that he should be entitled to compensation? Do you think someone should give a historic baseball back to the player who worked tirelessly 2 to 3 hours a day for like 5 months to perfect his swing without needing some type of payment or compensation? Or do you think everyone is blowing this out of proportion and its just another baseball and we saw it live and that means more than a $4 ball? As the fictional VP stated – Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers? What if it were your child? What would you do? Feel free to comment and I will gather your thoughts for a future article to be published this month.

Baseball Parks, Fields, and Complexes IN THE COMMUNITY Youth Baseball News

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The RIBBE is The Rhode Island Baseball Experience. It is promoting the game of baseball here in the great state of Rhode Island for the entire baseball world to see. The RIBBE is positive stories, photos, videos, and responsible social media posts. The RIBBE is an information resource for families looking for an AAU team or a summer camp or a great place to buy a first baseman’s mitt. The RIBBE is a network of coaches, tournament directors, parents, leagues, and baseball junkies whose passion of the game of baseball is unquestioned. I believe that providing expert analysis, information and directions to ballfields, and coaching advice from some of the top RI baseball minds will help promote the game of baseball here in RI to a whole new level.

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