Update: Longtime San Francisco Giants fan Virginia Smith said she had brought her glove to every game she ever attended, hoping to catch a ball some day. After playing softball for 39 years, she certainly was practiced enough. Well, at long last, Smith — a grandmother of 16 and a great grandmother of 15 — finally made it happen Tuesday night
Todd Helton's foul ball actually crashed a birthday party (though it also looked like Mardi Gras, or Halfway to St. Patrick's Day), in the upper deck at AT&T Park. Smith, a white-haired woman wearing a fanny pack, caught the ball with her trusty glove — adorned with a green ribbon for "luck of the Irish" — after Helton fouled off a pitch by Sergio Romo in the ninth inning.
Covered in a Giants fleece, wearing a pair of deely bobbers on her head and holding another pair in her right hand — take it easy, ma'am — Smith reached out and saved her granddaughter from certain doom by making a clean and easy catch.
"I think the ball caught this lady. I do," Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper said.
After making what Kuiper's partner Mike Krukow called the "play of the year" and his "favorite of all times," Smith rose to her feet to accept a deep hug from her kin, who was wearing Christmas garland as a scarf and a leprechaun cap. Yeah, it was a party all right.
After the first hug, Smith started to dance a 360-degree jig when another woman a few rows back stopped her about 180 degrees into it for another hug. She also high-fived a man, and appeared to be left hanging for another high five from a second man who just sat there. C'mon, dude. Not that the missed opportunity dampened the moment any. Smith was just too excited to let it happen.
"You want to talk about a definition of 'a gamer babe' ?" Krukow asked rhetorically.
He's onto something. Here it was, the ninth inning in chilly San Francisco, with the Giants eliminated from the NL West race, and having just fallen behind to the Rockies earlier in the inning, and not only was Smith still at the ballpark, she was ready to catch the greatest souvenir a fan could ever receive at a baseball game. And she still had enough energy to dance a jig and high five the entire second deck, if they wanted some.
"That's a player right there," Krukow added.
In a postgame interview on CSN Bay Area — during which they named her player of the game instead of Hunter Pence — Smith said her first emotion upon catching the ball was relief:
"At last! I have carried this glove to every ballgame that I have gone to anywhere. And I finally got to be able to get one and catch it."
Best fan ever? Best fan ever.