Every kid and most adults who have set foot in a major league baseball stadium have dreamt of taking home a souvenir ball. Throughout the course of a baseball game dozens of balls are hit foul and a few are hit fair-we call them homeruns. Whatever kind of hit it is, there are only 50 or so balls hit into the stands per game and at a typical Yankee game, there are 55,000 fans, thus one ball per 1000 fans in attendance. Thus the odds of catching one ball in a game are about one in a thousand. The odds of catching two balls are, quite literally, one in a million. What really boggles the mind, however, are the odds of catching two home run balls. On average there are perhaps 4 homeruns hit per baseball game. The odds of catching a homerun are thus about one in fourteen thousand. The odds of catching two are the square of that number, or approximately one in 196 million. Two put it mathematically, the odds are 1/196,000,000.
35 year old Alexander Martinez of Hartford Connecticut, however, managed to beat the long odds and catch two home run balls in one game. He accomplished this feat on August 5th, 2007 at Yankee Stadium during a 8-5 Yankee win over the inept visiting Kansas City Royals. Martinez, who had never caught a ball at Yankee Stadium before, caught the only two homeruns hit by Yankee batters in the game. The first homerun came in the bottom of the third inning with Hideki Matsui leading off. Matsui hit a solo shot to deep right field that was caught by Martinez. He was asked by security to give the ball back as it was Matsui’s 100th major league home run. Martinez reluctantly did so but he did not walk away empty handed as, in the bottom of the sixth, Melky Cabrera hit another solo shot right to Martinez. This ball Martinez was allowed to keep. Incidentally, given that there were 54,524 fans in attendance and only two homeruns were hit by Yankees, the odds of catching one of the Yankee blasts were 1 in 27,262 and thus the combined odds of catching two are 1 in 743,216,644.
By comparison, the odds of winning the powerball are 1 in 146,107,962. The odds of being killed by lightning are one in 2,320,000. There are less likely events, however. For instance, the odds of a meteor striking your home are one 182,138,880,000,000.
If you wanted to catch two homerun balls, what would be the best strategy? Well, if you didn’t want to rely on dumb luck, I would think the best thing to do would be either sit in the first five rows or so of the “Short Porch” in short right field at Yankee stadium where most homeruns are hit. Still, you are sitting amongst hundreds of New Yorkers, many of whom are drinking beer and will demonstrate surprising brawn and dexterity if a homer comes their way. For my money, I think that the best way to snag two dingers would be to sit in the bleacher seats adjacent to the batter’s eye. The “Black Seats” are the batters eye in deep center that remain vacant so that hitters can have a black background against which to see the baseball. Deep center in Yankee stadium is over 400 feet from home plate so only serious shots are hit there. However, there is a low fence surrounding the black seats and thus, if a home run were to be launched in that direction, you would have a decent chance of vaulting said fence and collecting the ball before anyone else could get anywhere near you. If you want to succeed in life, you have to have a plan, and for beating the odds of catching two homeruns in one game at Yankee stadium, like my new personal hero, Alex Martinez, that’s my plan.