Tim Anderson agrees that, with the way his luck has been trending, now would probably be a good time to buy himself a lottery ticket.
"If I were old enough," said Anderson, a 17-year-old Orioles fan who will be a senior at Calvert Hall this fall, "I would have already."
Of course, there is a lot more to catching home runs than blind luck. You need to be nimble enough to leap over rows of seats, you need to have good hands and be fearless in a crowd, and you need to show up, night after night, ready to pounce at the crack of the bat. No one has done those things better lately than Anderson, who gained a slice of the national spotlight this week when he caught home runs during three consecutive Orioles games.
"I thought it was pretty lucky, but I didn't think much of it until the third one," said Anderson, whose trifecta of grabs was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter on Thursday. "But the third one seemed like a pretty big deal. [My friend] was like: 'This is something big.'"
It didn't seem like that big of a deal to Anderson, at least at first, because this isn't the first time he's plucked a ball out of the sky from his regular spot in the left field bleachers of Camden Yards. Anderson, a life-long Orioles fan who estimates he's been to more than 40 games this year, has snagged nine home runs in the last two seasons. He caught three home runs in 2010, and has tracked down six more this year. He used to ask his parents to drive him to games, but once he was old enough to get his license, they let him go on his own.
"I'm out here every day, so I figure if I'm paying to be out here, I might as well make the most of the experience," Anderson said. "I position myself to where I think I might have the best chance. If it comes, I try not to run into people. I've never run into anyone before."
Anderson said he typically studies the initial reaction of the left fielder when the ball is hit to give him a better idea of where the ball might land, although his first grab in the series that would earn him his small slice of fame — off the bat of White Sox outfielder Carlos Quintin on August 9 — nearly didn't happen because Anderson made the mistake of trusting Felix Pie's initial read on the ball.
"Felix went back like it was going to be close to the wall, so I came in [several rows]," Anderson said. "I had to run back and I couldn't get there in time."
The ball, however, bounced off an empty seat and Anderson was able to scoop it up off the bounce. The next night, J.J. Hardy lined a home run into the left field bleachers in the first inning and Anderson saw it from the instant it left the bat, snagging it out of the air.
"It was a pretty easy grab," Anderson said. "There was no one in the stands. I thought catching number two in a row was pretty cool. I'd never had that happen before."
Home run number three, however, Anderson had to work for. Alexei Ramirez hit a towering shot to left field, and it looked like it might get over Anderson's head. He didn't have time to scramble back to the next row of seats, so he leaned back as far as he could, leaped into the air and made a pretty catch.
"I knew it was going to be something big and I just went crazy," Anderson said.
As soon as MASN made the connection and edited the three clips together, the highlights went viral. Anderson's friends started texting him Thursday night to tell him he was on SportsCenter, and he stayed up to watch the replay several times, soaking up the surreal feeling. On each of the White Sox home runs, Anderson threw a ball back onto the field, but when asked about it, he admitted it wasn't the actual home run ball he tossed. He always brings a spare to games, just in case.
"I won't throw back the original ball," Anderson said. "I'm starting to have fun with it. I write notes to players on it. [Adam] Jones has responded a little, he's picked one up and laughed. That's the best response I've gotten."
He is the first to admit it's a little easier to catch home runs when the games are sparsely attended, but Anderson, who has been cheering for the Orioles "longer than I can remember" said he'd give up every ball he's caught if it meant more people would come to the games.
"I would like it a lot more if they won," Anderson said. "I'd trade a win for catching a home run ball any game. If we start winning, the crowds are going to come, which will cut down on my chances, but I'm OK with that."
Anderson says he played some baseball growing up, and he really wanted to play at Calvert Hall, but he was cut during tryouts. He laughed when a reporter asked if recent events might make the coaches at Calvert Hall — a private school power — reconsider their decision.
"If they see those catches and want to give me another chance, they can go right ahead," he said.
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