Okay, I don't know if it was really the year 2002, but it was around there. This was a baseball game. MLB. In Miami Gardens at what was once called Joe Robbie Stadium. It was the Florida Marlins--now the Miami Marlins--against the San Diego Padres.
We--my family--used to attend a few Marlins games each year. Tickets--in general--were plentiful, inexpensive and baseball was a relaxing sport to attend. We saw one Dolphins football game (I prefer football to baseball), one Miami Heat game (before Lebron James came to play for four years) and a few Florida Panthers hockey games. But we saw maybe a dozen Marlins games.
So we were there--my wife, my two daughters and I--sitting in good seats almost above the home team dugout. Clear view. Close to the action. A sunny day. Marlins winning. My wife and older daughter were in the seats closer to the aisle, I sat next, and my youngest daughter, maybe ten or eleven, sat in the last seat. The seats beyond us in the row were empty. It was a big stadium for baseball (the Marlins now have their own place, in Miami) and you usually were not crowded . . . So, a Padre was up to bat and we were watching but also just being lackadaisical, talking, eating popcorn, drinking sodas, beer for me, not paying real close attention. And this is why I recall this game:
The Padre batter took a swing. He lost his handle on the bat. The bat comes flying. It goes over the heads of the front row fans. I'm watching this. Not quite slo-mo, but not exactly in an instant. The bat is coming towards us. Us. Towards me--no, not me, towards my younger daughter. And I'm watching. Yes, the bat is definitely coming right at my daughter. By the time I filly start to reach over, the bat has landed in the two seats right next to her--she's flinching, I'm reaching, the bat is bobbling, bumping, roiling around in those empty seats. Then I have my hand on it, grab it--the bat--stop it right there . . . I ask my daughter if she is okay and she is. I hand her the bat. The crowd in the stadium is seeing all of this. I tell her, "Stand up."
So, she stands up, holds the bat aloft in both hands, the stadium crowd roars and claps.
I've always wondered if they showed that on TV. But it was a moment for her--for us--to have a sports crowd cheer. We got to keep the bat. Still have it. And it reminds me of that game, of that time, of South Florida.