In any major or minor league ballpark there are always signs posted warning fans to watch for foul balls. At every Fightin’ Phils game they play a short video clip asking fans to keep an eye on the game and always look out for foul balls or even a bat occasionally. In the upstairs ice cream stand we have another warning: Beware the right-handed hitter.
This warning ties into the typical beware of foul balls warning. It all comes down to the location of the stand in relation to home plate. The stand is located behind and to the right of the plate. When a left-handed batter is in the box, he is on the same side of the plate as the ice cream stand with his back facing the stand and it is very rare for a foul ball to go behind the hitter. When a right-handed batter is up, he is standing to the left of home plate which faces his body towards the upstairs ice cream stand.
Typically, when a batter hits a foul ball, it flies out towards the outfield or along the third or first baselines. Depending on the type of pitch thrown and how early or late the bat makes contact, the ball will go up behind the plate, usually in the direction the batter is facing. This is when we duck and cover in the stand.
The upstairs ice cream stand has taken more hits from foul balls than I can count. If you look at the front of the stand you can see marks along the bottom where foul balls have chipped the paint. We’ve had more close calls than anything else, but there have been one or two balls that actually make it through the window and off the back wall of the stand. The container of plastic spoons that sits on the front of the counter has even taken some hits.
We’ve learned to keep a watchful eye on the field anytime a right-handed batter steps up to the plate. At least one of us will yell, “heads up” if a ball looks like it is heading in our direction. On some occasions we become easily spooked – usually after a few balls have already come our way – and we seek safety at every gasp or shriek from the crowd. We have gotten so accustomed to watching foul balls that are heading our way that sometimes the ball seems to be moving in slow motion. We stand there watching and thinking that it will never reach us and then at the last minute we find ourselves jumping away from the window or crouching down behind the soda machine.
It can be nerve-wracking trying to keep an eye on the batter during the game. If we get busy in the middle of the game, it can be difficult to watch what is happening on the field and still help the customers in a timely manner. We just hope the ball doesn’t come our way and if we hear someone yell heads up, we get out of the way. I’m sure it’s amusing to watch us whenever a foul ball is hit. Despite the occasional hazards of foul balls, I wouldn’t want to work in any other stand.
If you ever find yourself at a Fightin’ Phils game sitting in one of the sections around the ice cream stand remember this important message: Keep your eyes on the game and beware of the right-handed hitter!