My hit parade

For more than 30 years I’ve been covering all kinds of baseball from Little Leagues to the Major Leagues, and I have never been hit by an errant ball. Even back in the old days, when I had to stand on the field because of using a relatively shorter lens. I’ve had a few close calls where I had to duck out of the way: Close but no cigar. That streak ended on Wednesday night during a California League game between the Stockton Ports and the San Jose Giants at the Stockton Ballpark.

I was shooting from the steps that lead into the Ports’ dugout. Near first base, it’s a fairly well protected spot with a netted fence facing the field and handrails along the sides providing decent protection from foul balls. I had forgotten my monopod so I had to hand-hold the big 200-400mm lens I was shooting with, and that turned out to be a good thing.

The Giants were at bat, with a runner on first. I was concentrating on second base for a potential double play. I stood on the second to the bottom step. The big lens is pretty heavy, so I braced myself against the right rail. I put my left leg up on the 4th or 5th step, which made my thigh more or less parallel to the ground.

The batter hit a low line drive that rocketed to the Ports shortstop. I had thought the ball had hit the ground, but the infielder had caught it in midair. The runner had left first, and I was waiting for a play second but he had turned around after he saw the shortstop’s catch and was hustling his way back toward first.

Because I was concentrating on second, I didn’t see the shortstop’s throw to first in his attempt to throw the runner out. He overthrew the first baseman and the ball careened into the dugout. I felt something hit the outside of my thigh just above the knee. Fortunately, the ball didn’t do much more than graze my leg, but I still gave out a small yelp (more out of surprise than pain).

I said that it was a good thing that I had forgotten my monopod. If I had remembered it, I more than likely would have been standing with both feet on the same step. Moreover, I would have also been standing a little more to my left, and the path of the ball would have been directly in line with a very sensitive part of my anatomy. So my “no-hit” streak has been broken. I’m just glad it’s the only thing that was.

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