Humor by Greg Schwem

The ball towered off White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez's bat. As it began its descent, the occupant of lower box 123, row 11, seat 6 had only one thought:

"That's headed right at me."

Instead of assuming an outfielder's position -- centering myself under the target, left foot slightly forward and gloved hand outstretched -- I began to inch away. I have long ceased bringing a mitt to baseball games and the idea of bare handing a rock-hard baseball has little appeal when you are a writer and earn a living with your fingers.

Luckily, row 11 was empty, save for myself and my buddy Tom, who had scattered left while I went right. It proved to be a good, if slightly wimpy move on my part. The ball bounced directly where my lap and my nachos had just been, caromed backward through a few outstretched hands and somehow rolled back down under two rows of seats, coming to rest directly in front of me. I snatched it and hoisted it aloft, not because I hoped the TV cameras would give me five seconds of fame, but because I had never actually held a baseball that, just moments ago, was being bandied around by the game's finest.

Then I heard the first voice:

"Give it to the kid!"

Another voice, four rows forward, uttered the same words. And then another, from somewhere behind me. The longer I held the ball, the more selfish I was appearing to strangers who, beers in hand, were quickly forming a jury. What would happen if I ignored them and pocketed the ball? My mind raced back to Sept. 19, 2002, when a goon named William Ligue and his 15-year-old, equally goonish son charged onto U.S. Cellular Field and beat up Kansas City first-base coach Tom Gamboa. Was there another Ligue-like fan in my midst?

I looked at Tom, whose eyes said, "Do something. Fast."

I thought about yelling, "Hey, I have kids at home. Maybe they would like this ball." After all, my 10-year-old daughter sleeps next to a puck flipped her way by Blackhawks star Patrick Kane. But would the fans believe me? Would I have to fish into my wallet and produce snapshots or worse, open the photo app on my Smart Phone, wave it around and say, "See? Here they are." Unfortunately there was no time; the demands had become a chant.


I looked further right and saw "the kid," a boy no more than 3 seated between his parents. I hadn't noticed them earlier, most likely because they had improved their seats in the game's later stages. Haven't we all done that at a sporting event?

The kid looked to be in the middle of a serious sugar coma, clutching a licorice rope in one hand and a kelly green squishy baseball in the other. I walked over, tousled his hair and handed him the ball. The crowd cheered. They were happy.

I was not.

"Shouldn't I get to decide what to do with the ball?" I asked Tom. "After all, I caught it."

"Well to be fair, you didn't exactly catch it," Tom replied. "It sort of rolled to you. Besides, what would you have done with it?"

"What's he going to do with it?" I countered. "He'll leave it on his bedroom floor and the dog will be chewing on it the next morning."

"Forget it," Tom said.

"I can't forget it. What kind of message are we sending to kids when we just hand them gifts? He needs to know life isn't that easy."

"So you're saying he should have run over and caught the ball himself? Assuming he took his thumb out of his mouth first."

"All I'm saying is that a baseball game shouldn't come with peer pressure, particularly when the peers are on their fifth Miller Lites," I said.

"You're right," Tom said. "Tell everybody you want the ball back. Walk over to the kid and demand it. I'll film the conversation and we'll split the money when I sell the footage to CNN. You can use your half for medical bills."

"He can have the ball. But mark my words, he's going to turn into another one of those kids who think they are entitled to everything. His parents should have declined my offer. They could have taught him a lesson. I know I've learned one tonight."

"What's that?" Tom said.

"When I win the lottery, I'll never show the winning ticket anywhere near a playground."

Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad

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