21: The Amazing Foul Ball

21: The Amazing Foul Ball

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

The Amazing Foul Ball

The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.

~Bryant Gumbel

Every three weeks for two and a half months, we drove the two hours to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. After morning tests, Ross’s doctor or an intern would puncture his spine, withdraw fluid to be tested, and inject him with two powerful medications. Twelve hours of intravenous chemotherapy followed.

The resulting nausea made Ross feel even worse, but this is what we had to do to defeat the cancer in his lymph gland.

To distract us from our anxiety about our third visit, I bought the best box seats available for the San Francisco Giants/Montreal Expos baseball game. Ross, a seven-year-old baseball fanatic, slept in the back seat as my wife and I drove from Sacramento through sporadic drizzle.

In the fifth inning, I left to take a picture of Will Clark from behind the backstop. He was on deck when Willie McGee hit a hard, looping foul near our seats. “No way,” I thought, and continued looking toward home plate. McGee doubled on the next pitch and then Expos’ pitcher Dennis Martinez intentionally walked Clark.

As I returned to our seats I sensed something had happened. My first thought was that Ross or Stacey had been hurt, but people were smiling at me. Ross stood there grinning, proudly holding the hardball high above his balding head. The ball had glanced off a man at the end of our row, tipped his son’s glove, and landed in Ross’s mitt.

If I had been sitting next to him, he would not have made the catch. My reflexive reaction would have been to protect my wife and son or at least help Ross catch it.

People kept coming up and congratulating him on his great catch. They all wanted to touch the ball, saying they had been to hundreds of games and never caught a foul ball. A head usher also came over and examined the ball with an unknown, but official, purpose.

The rain never came, the Giants won an exciting game, and we appreciated a quick exit from the parking lot. During the half-hour drive to our hotel, the ball seemed to glow and hum in the back seat.

The next day, instead of being filled with his normal dread, Ross was excited. He showed the ball to Rolo, our cheerful hospital aide, who had chauffeured us between the intimidating MRI machine, the ultrasound and the bone scan on our frightening first visit.

Ross discussed the catch with his friend Daniel as they played Nintendo while hooked up to their IVs. He proudly displayed it to the supportive hospital staff members and impressed Dr. Link and Dr. Mogul when they came by on their rounds. Later in the day, Stacey used the hardball to rub his sore back near the injection area.

His recovery was quicker than after previous treatments. Perhaps it was the new combination of anti-nausea drugs, but I think part of the credit went to the foul ball. He returned to his second-grade class without missing a day of school. Though most of his hair had fallen out over the weekend, he didn’t care; he had a baseball to show off.

After Ross’s chemotherapy ended, his weight and energy gradually returned. Soon he was back playing second base on his Little League team as the lump on his neck melted away. His pediatric oncologists said that he should lead a normal life.

Ross is thirty-one now and he’s in excellent health.

~Bob Dreizler

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