On Kids’ Day at Spring Mobile Ballpark, the nearly 11,000 elementary school fans flooding the seats and spilling onto the concourse were seeking a great number of souvenirs.
It was easy to tell what had value to the preteen spectators. Hundreds, if not thousands were ambling around with miniature pink baseball bats, or floppy yellow fingers. Bumble, the team’s mascot, couldn’t walk a foot without stepping into a horde of autograph-seeking children. Dippin Dots has never been so popular at the ballpark as it was Tuesday afternoon.
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But that most coveted of prizes — the foul ball — was also the hardest to find during the 10-3 win that the Bees (23-23) earned over Memphis (22-21). And that’s why Horizon Elementary fifth-grader Joshua Christiansen kept his close, cradled in his mother’s glove he had borrowed.
Right after an inning, Bees third baseman Luis Jimenez had tossed it to him in the front row by the team dugout. Christiansen was the envy of Ms. McNatt’s class.
"He didn’t say anything, he just kind of threw it out," Christiansen said. "I’m going to take it home and put it on my dresser."
Kids’ Day is as much about the spectacle of a ball game as the game itself. Mascots from a dozen local teams were in the stands, ambushing children with water guns and silly string. Marketing staff threw out giveaways, which could be taffy or a blow-up bee. The fans cheered as loudly for the Bees’ rally in the seventh inning as they did for the inflatable hot dog during a between-innings race.
But still, a souvenir from the game itself was what kids wanted more than anything. Charmaine Bullock, Shayleigh Howells and Jessica Chavez — all sixth-graders at Lincoln Elementary — were sitting behind home plate, but the net in front of them was their biggest gripe with their seats. The experience made up for the lack of foul balls, however.
"It is cool because you can see more," Bullock said. "I actually like being here, even though it’s kind of crazy, because there’s only two weeks of school left, and it’s fun to be with everyone."
Packs of friends clamored at the walls for closer looks at the players, and hopefully a chance for a ball. They chanted during the game, with old standbys ringing out loudly.
"We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher!"
A group of sixth-graders from Monroe Elementary sat patiently near the right field line, close enough to tap the caps of the players in the bullpen. A sign at the gate let them know if they were nice, they might get a ball.
So Anatolio Zuniga, Kekoa Lokeni and Anthony Vann didn’t bother the Bees players in the late innings, hoping that it would pay off sooner or later. They bantered with their teacher, Mrs. Donnay, about how fast the pitchers were throwing as she made connections to their math lessons.
But more than lessons, Tuesday was about having fun and waiting for that memorable moment.
"It’s exciting, it’s something new to see," Zuniga said. "I’m still hoping we’ll get a ball."
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