David Chancey is pastor of McDonough Road Baptist Church
in Fayetteville. The church family meets at 352 McDonough
Road. Join them this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m.
and worship at 10:55 a.m.)
L. CHANCEY Contributing Writer
Little Nick OBrien became an instant celebrity Sunday, June
13, by being in the right place at the right time. Twenty-eight-year-old
Matt Starr became an instant villain by being in the wrong place
at the wrong time.
Its all about timing, which is why ball players hit foul
balls to begin with. The timing of the swing on that pitch was
just off enough to send the ball into the section occupied by Starr
and the O'Briens.
In a mad scramble for the coveted souvenir, Starr aggressively
lunged over the seat in front of him and knocked little Nick, pinning
him temporarily against the seat while reaching for the ball. Starr
got the ball, Nick got the rough treatment, Nicks mother
gave Starr what for, and then the crowd got onto Starr,
chanting, Give him the ball. Give him the ball.
Starr refused, positioning himself to be called a jerk on the
television broadcast by Rangers announcer Tom Grieve. The
biggest jerk in this ballpark. Finally, he and the woman
he was with left the game early. Just another day enjoying Americas
The good news is that Cardinals outfielder Reggie Sanders
saw the episode on the clubhouse TV and trotted over between innings
and gave Nick a baseball and bat.
Sanders said, In my heart, I thought I should do something.
Its all about the kids.
The Rangers also offered souvenirs, including a baseball autographed
by pitching great Nolan Ryan. Since the man refused to give up
the ball, the OBriens have become celebrities, appearing
on news interviews and national programs such as Good Morning
All of this fuss and frenzy is over a foul ball. Its just
a baseball, isnt it?
Not for the diehard baseball fan. Its Americas pasttime.
Its the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the reach
of a dozen arms, the flight of the ball, and the dream of every
fan who has ever gone to a game to come home with a baseball.
Its just a baseball isnt it? Five ounces in weight.
Nine to nine and a quarter inches in circumference. One hundred
twenty one yards of blue/gray material followed by 45 yards of
white wool yarn added to the outside. Cowhide covering held together
by 216 stitches and some rubber cement.
No, its childhood memories. Its time with my Dad.
Its seeing the stars in person. Its better than television.
Its a priceless moment.
When I was 10 years old, my dad and I were watching the 1967 Braves
at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Hank Aaron, Mack Jones,
Rico Carty, Clete Boyer, Dennis Menke, Joe Torre, Felipe Alou.
Sonny Jackson was at the plate and fouled one back our way. My
dad reached as high as he could, but the ball travelled just over
his fingertips. Two rows back, the ball bounced out of the hands
of a man and landed in the lap of the man sitting right by me.
I had my transitor radio in one hand listening to Milo Hamilton
call the game, my scorecard balanced in my lap, and my pencil in
the other hand. All I had to do was reach out and catch the ball.
But it happened so quickly. Thats the closest Ive ever
come to catching a foul ball, and Ive never forgotten it.
The story has a happy ending for little Nick. Though trampled,
hes experienced an windfall of publicity and souvenirs. On Good
Morning America, host Charles Gibson gave the OBriens
tickets for Wednesday nights Mets-Indians game.
And the Texas baseball fan who prompted the public outcry has
agreed to send a letter of apology to the family and to buy his
family tickets to future Texas Rangers games. And hes decided
to give up his prize. Nick can have the ball after all.