by Dan Mennella
As we've been reminded time and again in recent baseball seasons, the dogged pursuit of foul balls can tear families apart. Thankfully, though, with the right dad in the right place and an inordinate amount of luck, it can also bring them together.
Indians season-ticket holder Greg Van Niel corralled a whopping four foul balls at Progressive Field on Sunday, giving one to each of the kids in his party as well as one to a youngster from another group seated nearby.
The odds of such a feat? Well, ESPN's Stats & Information estimated the odds of catching one foul ball are one in a thousand. (I've been to probably a couple hundred games in my life and never caught a foul, so that figure makes me feel better about the futility.) But four in one game? Try one in a trillion.
Found him: Tribe Season Ticket Holder Greg Niel has caught four foul balls today. Nice work Greg! pic.twitter.com/vmiIQuwefL— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) July 14, 2013
While there's no way to confirm whether Van Niel is the first to pull off this feat -- seriously, of all the obscure baseball stats out there, how is this not one? -- it seems likely that he is, judging by those immense odds.
Further adding to the improbability of Van Niel's good fortune was the fact that he wasn't even sitting in his usual seats.
"We weren't in our actual season ticket seats [Sunday]," Van Niel told ESPN. "We were one section over and it happened to be the lucky section."
As Niel later explained, the first ball he caught wasn't so much in the interest of taking home a souvenir as it was self-preservation: it was a screaming line drive off the bat of Cleveland third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall that Van Niel snagged to protect his daughter from getting drilled. What a dad!
And so, on the final Sunday before the All-Star break, Van Niel helped us forget about some of those unfortunate foul-ball incidents making the rounds on lowlight reels these days.
His luck can only go so far, though. He is an Indians fan, after all.
Tell us: Any memorable experiences catching (or not catching) a foul ball?