Jay Martin and his group of seven had just taken their seats in right field at Nationals Park on Thursday afternoon when someone nearby shouted, ‘Here it comes!’ Before Martin could react, a baseball whizzed over his head and caromed off the scoreboard below Section 240.
“I didn’t even know who hit it,” Martin said Friday. “I saw it at the last second. Afterward, people around us were like, ‘Do you know who just hit that?‘”
Bryce Harper hit that, the 100th home run of his career, and his first grand slam. He’s hit a home run in each of the Nationals’ three games since.
“The ball landed right next to my wife, who saw it and grabbed it and gave it to my daughter right away,” Martin said. “That worked out pretty good. There was a guy who jumped up from about two rows below us and he got to within about two inches of getting it from my wife’s hand before she gave it to my daughter.”
The next thing Martin knew, security was leading him to a Nationals representative, who negotiated a postgame meet-and-greet with Harper in exchange for the ball.
“Of course they wanted the ball back and I can totally understand that,” said Martin, who was in D.C. as part of the Idaho delegation for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America’s annual legislative conference and bought tickets to the game on StubHub on Wednesday. “When I texted our group about where our seats were, I jokingly said it’s kind of cool because that’s probably where they hit all the homers anyway.”
Earlier in the day, Martin and his fellow delegates met with Idaho’s senators and representatives on Capitol Hill while his wife, Misty, and 10-year-old daughter, Lauren, went shopping. Thursday evening, the entire group posed for photos in the Nationals’ clubhouse with Harper, who signed programs and hats, recorded a short video for the son of one of the delegates and gave Lauren an autographed bat with the inscription ‘Luke, 1:37.’
Lauren, who is in remission after she had leukemia diagnosed at age 5, got to meet Taylor Swift at a concert in Portland, Ore., through the Make-a-Wish Foundation when she was 7 and called that a “dream come true.” She enjoyed meeting the reigning National League MVP on Thursday, but admitted it didn’t quite compare to meeting Swift. Harper, who has used “Shake It Off” as a walk-up song, would probably agree.
If you’re wondering, no, the bat that Harper gave Lauren did not have a 💯 emoji on the knob.
“We looked for that because the people who were sitting directly in front of us told us all about that, but it didn’t have that on there,” said Jay, a Mariners fan who headed back to Idaho with his family on Sunday. “It’s still pretty cool.”