"I had a chance," said Nicolas Davies, a 9-year-old with a buzz cut who on Saturday evening was sitting in RFK Stadium's upper deck when a baseball came arcing out of the summer sky right toward him.
It was the first inning, and Brad Wilkerson had fouled a pitch off Blue Jays hurler Ted Lilly. For a fleeting moment, Nicolas thought he might be going home to Cumberland, Md., with a neat souvenir from his first major league game.
But the ball had other plans, and Nicolas couldn't quite reach it.
Neither could Jackson Hickey, almost 7, sitting one row up and a few seats over from Nicolas. Jackson's cousins, Brennan, 15, and Connor, 13, had maybe the best shot at the ball among those in Section 431. They'd driven up from Cary, N.C., with their dad, Bob, and were among 10 assorted Hickey relatives watching the game -- and hoping for a foul ball.
"If they had been willing to knock people over, they would have had that ball," Bob said of Brennan and Connor. "I'm a little embarrassed that they're my kids."
"You say that now," Brennan said to his father, "but what if I'd gone over the railing?"
Which is, in fact, what happened to the ball. It eluded Nicolas and Jackson, and the two teenage brothers, and Joe Teach, Jackson's great-uncle from Hagerstown, Md., who once caught a foul ball, at a Yankees game, but never has since.
It eluded Jackson's 5-year-old sister, Grace, who -- in the aftermath of the near-miss that had briefly energized Section 431 -- sat holding her baseball cap out in front of her, like Oliver Twist proffering an empty bowl and asking, "Please, sir, may I have some more?"
"It might happen again," she said, hopeful that a second ball was going to float down from the heavens and plop into her hat.
Section 431's loss was Section 221's gain. Gravity and fate conspired to send the ball dribbling over the lip of the upper deck. It fell until it collided with the hand of Alison Bodor, who lives in Arlington, works for the National Confectioners Association and wonders why you can't buy more candy at RFK Stadium.
"I deflected the ball and Brian caught it," Alison explained.
That's husband Brian Bodor, who had risen from his seat and walked to the end of the row on his way to buy some water when he noticed an excited ripple move through the crowd. He didn't see the ball at first, but the same way that wildebeests at a Serengeti watering hole know instinctively that a lion lurks nearby, so Brian knew that something was up.
He tensed. The ball bounced once on the concrete floor and fell right into his hand.
By Brian's own admission, it was not a great catch, not one for the highlight reels. There was merely a respectful reaction from the crowd.
"But a minute later," said Brian, "when I gave it to the girl, I got a cheer."
The girl was 9-year-old Whitney Cinkala of Potomac, who sat with brother Justin, 12, and parents Dean and Susan a few seats over and one row down. They were strangers to the Bodors, but Whitney looked like she could use a ball.
Why is it so great to snag a foul ball, anyway?
"It's exciting," said Whitney.
"I guess it's because everybody's looking at you, because you're part of the game at that point," said Bob Hickey.
"You're holding an object that was officially in play a second ago," said Brian Bodor.
Just then, Justin Cinkala was holding the object in his hands. It was exactly the size of a baseball, patinated a light brown, stitched in red. The words "Rawlings" and "Official Major League Baseball" were stamped on it, and it bore a blackish smudge about the size of a quarter.
"It'll go downstairs in our basement in a glass thingy," said Justin of the baseball that Brad Wilkerson fouled off of Ted Lilly in the first inning of a game on June 25, 2005.
Every usher at RFK Stadium carries two laminated index cards, one yellow, one green. When a ball goes into the stands, the nearest usher hustles over. If everyone is okay, he or she holds up the green card as cameras around the stadium zoom in on it. If someone needs medical attention, he holds up the yellow card.
Just after Whitney got her ball, a ball was hit sharply farther down the third base line. A fan caught it with his lip. Blood streamed down his chin and a yellow card went up.
The fan went to a first aid station, where Jacque Benton, a nurse from Providence Hospital, took a look. It needed stitches, so the fan hopped in a taxi and went to Georgetown University Hospital.
Despite the injury, the fan held on to the ball.
Said Jacque: "He said he was going to go up to guest services to get it autographed."
A Hit for Camp
Now is when we need to kick it up a notch, put it in overdrive, light the afterburners -- choose your favorite expression. Our campaign to raise $650,000 for Camp Moss Hollow -- the camp for at-risk kids -- ends July 27. So far, we've raised $110,559.99. Please take the time to make a tax-deductible contribution:
Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to Family and Child Services, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/johnkelly. Click on the icon that says, "Make a Donation."
To donate by MasterCard or Visa by phone, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions on our taped message.