What does AC/DC have to do with baseball? Because of baseball, there’s actually a song of theirs I enjoy.
It’s strange that I’m not more into AC/DC than I am because they fit perfectly into my taste. I do enjoy certain songs of theirs, but find them a little too cartoonish. Schoolboy shorts are to AC/DC as makeup is to KISS.
The one song of theirs that I think will always give me chills is Thunderstruck. My guess is it’s not too many people’s favorites since it came out when they had their new singer following the passing of the first. As you can see, my knowledge of the band is rather limited to actions and not names. Unfortunately this is a major problem of mine outside of sports like the one time I was wearing an Iron Maiden shirt (a band I love) and a cashier asked me if I liked the first or the second singer. He named them by name and the only part of it I got was “Bruce” so I went with him. Thankfully he agreed.
Anyway, this is about baseball.
Thunderstruck was the song played before every Trenton Thunder game when I was going on a near weekly basis. It fit perfectly as it got you pumped up for the game and actually featured the team’s nickname in the title/song/lyrics/etc.
Still to this day, whenever I hear Thunderstruck, I think imagine myself back at a Thunder game standing on the third base line begging for the visiting player’s autographs. When the song played, it meant the game was only a few minutes away from beginning. When the game began, it meant three hours of relaxing and watching baseball before it was time to go back to work hounding for ‘graphs.
AC/DC will never be a band I will really enjoy with the exception of this lone song that brings me back to simpler baseball-filled days.
One of only a handful of professional baseball players from where I grew up made it to the major leagues. Bob Ojeda was born in Trenton, so it made sense he would eventually become a pitching coach for the Trenton Thunder. This was when our paths crossed and he willingly signed anything I asked of him.
The award for the most battered autographed baseball card in my possession probably goes to this one of Brian Myrow. Far from a significant player other than to the Trenton Thunder, something happened to this Myrow autographed card at some point in history and someone must be blamed. It was obtained in person, possibly by my dad, so he can receive any blame for why the card looks like it has been through a war.
Catcher Dioner Navarro came up through the New York Yankees’ minor league system in the early/mid-2000s. This meant stopping off in Trenton with the Thunder. This autographed card in particular is a pretty nice one. The thick blue ink, big signature, and the baseball card itself all make it perfect – with the only exception being the smudge. Navarro was always willing to sign, and as you can see, took his time to make it look nice – again, besides the smudge.
It was around 2002-2003 when the Boston Red Sox were scheduled to play an exhibition game against their Double-A affiliate Trenton Thunder. The game was rained out, but for autograph seekers we did have a successful day. Outfielder Trot Nixon was one of several players to sign for the fans. An old man was standing behind me and was able to point out each player. It was apparently my job, among all 100 fans there, to call them over. Thankfully this meant I was always the first one they signed for so I got the best effort, from Nixon included.
It seems like I may have more first round draft picks in my autographed baseball card collection than anyone else. The thing about first round picks is most don’t become superstars. One of them was the first round pick in the 1996 MLB Draft Dee Brown. Brown was taken by the Kansas City Royals and the baseball card companies thought he was going to be the next big player. When I got his autograph, I’m not even sure what team he was playing for at the time. Since he did have a stint with the Trenton Thunder in 2005, my guess is he was kind enough to load up on autographs for me during that period of his life.
Catching a foul ball at a baseball game is something we all dream of accomplishing. Many of us never have that moment.
The first ball I ever got at a game came while walking to the parking lot after the game. A man tossed the ball to the friend I went to the game with. My friend, for some ungodly reason, decided to play Rock Paper Scissor Shoot against me for possession of the ball at his request. I won much to his protest even though it was his ideas in the first place to have a friendly competition. I stopped talking to him a year later and managed to obtain probably about 50 baseballs since.
The majority of the baseballs I got at games were eventually signed or if they are really lucky, I now use them to massage the deep tissues in my hips. This fact shows you the huge contrast between an innocent child’s dreams of having a brush with the big leagues and living every day with muscular and joint pain.
Of these baseballs I obtain, most were either tossed to me by players or scavenged off the ground while outside the stadium waiting for foul balls hit over the grandstand. Occasionally I would have to make an actual play on them. The last ball I got at a game was in Toronto when I fielded a groundball down the third base line during batting practice. While it did take some skill, this was a foul ball during warmups and not a ball hit through the air in the course of a game. Catching a ball that way is far more difficult and something I only managed once–kinda sorta.
I had a little league game earlier in the day with tickets to see the Trenton Thunder later that night. I didn’t last very long in the game as I was hit in the head with a pitch in my first at-bat. I had already been going through a huge slump and had no interest in getting yelled at by my coach.
This may break some kind of kid code, but remember I’m old now and have achy joints so my body has clearly made up its mind which side I belong on in the war between adults and kids. I think almost every kid at some point has done what I did. I exaggerated my injury to get out of having to play sports.
Long before most kids decide to quit playing they lose a bit of interest. Rainouts aren’t as disappointing as they once were. In only my fourth season of little league baseball I already experienced enough screaming coaches, violent parents, and unfriendly teammates to make me happy whenever I could get out of playing. In hindsight the more appropriate thing would have been to quit or not let it get to me. I was 12-years-old though and still believed there was a chance my .130 batting average against 50 mile per hour pitches could translate at the big league level.
So I acted as if my head injury was worse than it was. I was sure not to go too overboard and make it seem as if I needed medical attention. For all I know the adults saw straight through my poor acting. If only I was a little older I could have gotten my own television show on MTV.
My dad was unsure whether we should go to the game or not because of my injury. I assured him I was feeling better so we went. Our seats were pretty good too, not that you can really have bad ones at a small minor league park. We were situated behind home plate and in a great position to grab a foul ball.
Sometime in the middle of the game, a foul ball was hit backwards. My eagerness to grab a foul ball was still a lot greater than most as I had my glove with me and feet ready to run after anything hit within two sections on either side.
As soon as I saw the ball going foul I jumped up and headed down the stairs. I misjudged the ball completely and wouldn’t be anywhere near the landing spot. I must have looked like one of those annoying kids who chases after everything. No. I WAS one of those kids only I never realized it.
Despite my inability to judge the ball’s direction, I was situated perfectly. The ball clanked against a railing and changed trajectory. Suddenly the ball was headed right toward me ready to bruise my stomach. I was about to get the Houdini Death Sentence.
My reflexes kicked in and my glove came up. The ball went straight into the leather mitt and I had officially caught my first foul ball–like I said, kinda sorta. Technically it did still never hit the ground. For me it counts.
The crowd was small at this point, but there was a light applause for my catch. I sat back down with my heart pumping and adrenaline bursting through my pores.
As soon as I was relaxed, I heard someone from above call my name. God?
I looked up. Sitting in one of the suites in the upper section was my little league coach. I had abandoned the team only hours earlier and suddenly I was fully capable of chasing down foul balls. I felt like I had just been caught with my pants down. At the time, I was unfamiliar with how that felt or even what the expression meant. This was the closest to it.
Many other baseballs landed in my glove over the years. None ever required the amount of skill catching this one did.
None also caused me so much embarrassment. My coach never brought up seeing me at the game or made it into an issue. I, however, always made sure from then on to use my disabled list stints more appropriately.
Of all the top prospects to play for my hometown team, the Trenton Thunder, Robinson Cano may have been the best. He played with the team at the same time as Melky Cabrera and often times I got the two confused. When Cano became a great player, I couldn’t remember which one of the two was really nice and which often refused to sign. You can guess without even seeing this picture based on everything else who the one good at signing autographs was. I can’t remember an exact moment when I got this autographed card, but I have it and you don’t so I rule.
Catcher, first baseman, and outfielder Virgial Chevalier spent several really good seasons with my hometown Trenton Thunder. He was one of the most popular players on the team during his time there and probably signed this baseball card a couple thousand times.
This authentic Wilton Veras autographed card was the first I ever pulled from a pack. The box I pulled it out of came from a Target/Walmart/etc. in the Poconos. I think I pulled it right before seeing The Sixth Sense (or at least it occurred in the same shopping center years apart). I was so happy!
Until realizing Veras was on the local Trenton Thunder and I was able to obtain his autograph multiple times fairly easily. Oh well.