Snagging a foul ball at a professional baseball game often is a matter of luck.
A recent visit to Applebee's Park, though, confirmed a suspicion: some folks "make" their luck.
There is something of an art to nabbing the free souvenirs on a regular basis.
A successful pursuer will scout where foul balls land most often.
Tools of the trade usually include mitts or hats to scoop for balls.
Or, in the case of Buddy Darr, a fish net.
Investment nets results
As season ticket holders for six years, Buddy and wife Sara Darr have prime location for fouls — front-row seats, third-base side, right where the home-plate screen ends. This is where foul tips go to die.
Buddy figures he has gotten 40 to 50 balls.
"The net came about because I couldn't reach all the foul balls, so I had to figure out some way to beat the bat boy to the balls," he said. "So we went to the Dollar Store and purchased a one-dollar net."
Buddy handles the net, but he occasionally needs a helping hand or two.
"I hold his ankles when he goes over (the wall), when the net's not long enough," Sara said with a laugh.
Although he hasn't fallen on to the field, which would be grounds for ejection, Buddy has come close. He's had both hands on the dirt before Sara and friends reeled him in.
The Lexington couple, who have no children, keep only the first ball they get each season to display at home. The rest are given away, usually to children sitting in their section (108).
At one recent game, Buddy flipped a ball to the father of a child who was perhaps 4 years old.
Ball in hand, the little boy approached the Darrs to say thank you.
"He was just ecstatic," Buddy said. "That's worth the season right there."
Beginner's luck helps, too
For Jerry Johnston, the key to catching a baseball was as simple as watching the ball, even when it's foul but not hit into the stands. After the batter hit a slow dribbler, the ball was tossed by a coach into Johnston's section.
"Nobody else was paying attention, except for me," he said. A fan in front acknowledged he had no idea the ball was coming.
Johnston was attending his first Legends game, and brought his nephew, Michael Cathers, 8.
"I always wanted to go to one but never had the time," Johnston said. Soon after his catch, a line drive was belted into a nearby section.
"We saw that laser beam. I keep telling (Michael) to watch the batter," he said.
Both fans went home with a souvenir. While Michael happily showed off his miniature bat from the team store, Johnston held his foul ball.
"I didn't think I'd get one," Johnston said. "I'm pretty stoked about it."
Left is right place for him
Tom Zipper is not a season ticket holder, but he has a plan for the games he does attend.
"The third-base line's the best," he said. "I've tried over on the first-base line, but I've caught every one of them over here, third-base line. This section (114) or over there on the grass, that's the best place to be."
Section 114 is the last section down the line before the lawn-seating area.
As it happened this night, Zipper's 39th birthday, he used his Ken Griffey Jr.-model glove to grab a line drive and impress his girlfriend, Christy Noble.
"It hit the glove hard," Zipper said. "I told her I was gonna save her. I said 'the ball's gonna come somewhere over here sooner or later,' and there it came."
Zipper, who says he gets about a dozen balls a year, will give them to children.
That is, unless son Chase is at the park, as he was this night.
"(He) actually got one one time, and he's 6," Zipper said. "He didn't catch it. It fell to the ground. We've got about five at home, so that's pretty cool."
Cesar Galvez, 8, had a productive weekend. He found a ball in the parking lot one day, then landed a foul in the left-field lawn area the next game.
"(I thought) there was too much kids, but I got it anyway," he said. Even late in the game, a foul ball hit to the lawn usually sends at least a dozen kids in pursuit.
Galvez had one baseball signed and said he'd like to get the other signed later.
Still, he said, "I'm going to play with them." He said he'd keep them "somewhere safe."
A gutter ball
Sometimes, even a good plan to get foul ball doesn't work.
Take Dave Lowder, on a business trip from his hometown of Sinton, Texas, near Corpus Christi.
A foul down the right-field line hit overhead, on the roof of the Bud Stables. Lowder boosted himself high enough to feel blindly for the ball in the gutter.
Empty-handed, Lowder said he'd get ball after the game.
"I'm going to pull the picnic table over, I'm going to stand on it and get that ball out of the gutter," he said.
After the game he actually lifted his wife Trish on his shoulders so that she could see into the gutter.
Mysteriously, there was no ball to be had.
Know-how is down Pat
Pat Bradley doesn't keep most of the baseballs he acquires. But he enjoys pursuing them.
Bradley sits in the first row, on the first-base side of the backstop screen. That is prime position to reach over and get rollers.
"We get them over the wall. The real fast ones are usually a couple rows back," he said.
Bradley said he might save a couple of baseballs for his nephews but distributes most to those sitting nearby.
"I have supplied a good part of this section with baseballs," he said.
Bradley also is part of an Applebee's Park tradition. When a Legend homers, after rounding the bases, Bradley most often is the one who passes the player's helmet around the stands. Donations are split among the player, team and charity.
"These guys don't make a lot of money," Bradley said. "It's a way to help them out, be supportive."