Shaken, But Not Stirred

Contributed by  J.W. Nicklaus

During the 2009 baseball season an event took place that was so common most would never give it a second thought. During a Phillies home game a fan caught a foul ball up in the third-tier seats. He had his three-year-old daughter with him, too. Now, he’d been going to Phillies games since he was a boy himself, and never once, during all those games, had he ever come close to catching a foul ball. Perhaps you don’t need to see the video of him catching it. It’s pretty normal stuff: camera follows the ball as it soars into the seats, the fan reaches out his hand and snags the ball. Naturally, he’s all kinds of excited and he turns to his daughter and both of them have their own little celebration right there in the stands.

He turns and hands the ball to his daughter. “I knew as soon as I caught it that I’d give it to her,” he later said.  “But I didn’t expect her to throw it.” 

That’s right — she turned and tossed the ball back down to the lower level. 

If you’re not a fan of baseball just know that catching a foul ball or home run is a big deal for fans, especially if your team is in the playoffs or the World Series. So why bring it up here? 

The holidays can be a procession of good times, laughs, and warm memories for many, but it can also be a time of heartbreak or loss for some. What makes the season bright is being able to step back, away from the twinkling lights and bustling shoppers, and weigh the spirit of the season against the history we hold within. Doubtless there are few families who don’t have some event mar at least one of the year-end holidays: a keepsake ornament gets broken, bitter words are cast, disagreements traced in the sand become etched in stone. How utterly easy it is to let passion overtake us and burn the very bridges we stand upon. How perfectly human to take all the glitter and shine of hope during the holiday season and tarnish it with our own regrets. 

But what of all those seasons past — the times as a child recalling the magic of going to bed with very little under the tree, and waking, realizing it’s Christmas morning, and hustling to the tree to find it filled underneath with wrapped secrets. Finding stockings filled with small surprises; perhaps hearing a voice on the phone that has the power to touch your heart despite the distance, or maybe just the simple beauty and quiet of nature on Christmas morning. 

As for the Phillies fan whose daughter tossed his prized foul ball over the railing? I dare say most of us would turn and say something like “What . . . Why . . . How could you do that!” This man smiled ear-to-ear, then picked up his daughter and gave her a huge hug. The best part: it was all caught on camera so the entire ballpark saw it. 

He didn’t get that particular ball back, but he did get a ball from the team before leaving the park — and both father and daughter came away with something far more precious. The holidays may be the one time of year when it’s acceptable to ‘drop the ball’. Imagine what that smile and a hug could mean for future holidays.  

J.W. Nicklaus maintains his own personal space between the soul and soft machine in the arid southwest amongst the snowbirds and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Between writing for his blog ( and other side projects, he spends time with his son enjoying the baseball season. Additional information about his debut collection of short stories. The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between, is available at his web site,



Posted on December 8, 2009, in Featured Authors. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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