Countless hours of driving to practice, loading up the old SUV and spending countless hours sitting just outside a batting cage is the life of a baseball family. From Little League to travel ball, millions of parents dream about the day when their child has the opportunity to play professional baseball. Nobody expects to be there on the day that their son hits a home run directly into the waiting hands of dad, who stands just on the other side of the outfield wall. The dream came true after minor league baseball player, Conrad Gregor hit his first home run of the season, as his dad stood beyond the outfield wall and made the catch of a lifetime.
A five-hour drive whipped Marty Gregor to Davenport, Iowa to watch his son play baseball for the Quad City River Bandits. Little did he know that he would make a catch that could only be re-enacted in movies, and a story-line that would be a little too far-fetched to be believed. The dream became a reality in the sixth inning when Conrad Gregor drove a pitch to deep right-center, toward the Mississippi River that looms outside of the stadium. Just as the ball looked as though it would find the water, a man in a black hat and a blue, two-button polo shirt made an over-the-shoulder, Willie Mays style basket catch. With ball in hand, he held it high, with arms stretched in jubilation as his son rounded the bases for his first professional home run of the season. “I heard he made a pretty good catch,” said Conrad Gregor. It was a moment that transcends a game, and is finally something in the sports world worth watching over and over with wide smiles, and a sense of great happiness for both father and son.
More than ever, professional sports has turned from a gentlemen’s game into some type of perverted mix of sport and soap opera. Story-lines often swirl around the negative aspects of sports, as money grubbing executives appear to have more of an interest in off-the-field activities than the beauty of sport that is played on the field. From racists comments to drug use and physical assaults, headlines are bombarded with the dark side of human life. Every now and then, a story that seems to be the Hollywood, heart-warming hit of the summer season plays itself out in reality.
The probability of catching a home run at a baseball game is extremely rare. Yet, for a father to be camped in the exact spot where his son crushed a bomb to deep right-center is enough to make fans wave their arms up and down like the character Roger Bomman did in Angels in the Outfield, and enough for people to wander out into the corn fields and listen to the voices which tell them, “If you build it, he will come.” It is a fantasy, and a feel good story that reminds everyone of a simpler time when sport was meant to be enjoyed, as opposed to the constant barrage of negativity that surrounds professional sports today. Marty Gregor may have made the catch of a lifetime, but he also gave baseball fans something to smile about.
Commentary by Johnny Caito