When a fan catches a home run ball it’s a scene of pure glee. The fan is smiling, the people in his section are smiling and clapping – unless of course there was an ugly scrum involving rolling around in peanut shells and spilled popcorn in the bleachers – but most of the time, catching a ball is like winning the baseball-fan lottery.
Caleb Lloyd won that lottery Monday night when the Cincinnati Reds were hosting the Atlanta Braves. In the fourth inning, the 20-year-old Reds fan looked up from his seat in left-center field and saw Mike Leake’s fly ball sailing toward him. The college student stuck out his bare hand and made the catch – admitting later it quote “hurt really bad.” Just as Lloyd was about to savor the experience, Reds shortstop Zack Cozart stepped to the plate. Cozart hit a deep shot to left-center. Now a wily veteran of home run catches, Caleb Lloyd locked in. He later told NPR that as he watched the ball plummet toward him he had time to think: “Am I actually going to catch two home run balls?”
The answer to that question was yes. The second shot cleared Lloyd then bounced back toward the field and landed in his lap.
It would be small-minded, petty and completely understandable if Lloyd’s fellow fans envied his good fortune, but Lloyd was even more generous than he was lucky. Mike Leake is a pitcher and Lloyd’s first catch was Leake’s first career home run, so Lloyd gladly turned over the first one. The Reds thanked him by handing one back with Leake’s autograph on it. And, Lloyd immediately handed the Cozart home run ball to his friend, who’d offered him the ticket and narrowly missed catching it on the fly.
Meanwhile, the Reds weren’t done. The next batter was centerfielder Drew Stubbs. Stubbs smashed Cincinnati’s third consecutive home run. Home-run magnet Caleb Lloyd was ready … but the shot sailed into the right field seats into the hands of some poor, down-on-his-luck fan who only caught one ball that night.