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Foul Ball Leads to Fun

April 25, 2021

Hugh Atkins

I may have a new favorite player. It’s Kole Calhoun of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the game Friday night against the Atlanta Braves, Calhoun crossed paths with 13-year-old Cordell McLerran of Cookeville, Tenn., and Calhoun made a fan for life–and he likely will be Cordell’s favorite player for a while as well.

With one out and a runner on second in the bottom of the fourth inning, Braves’ third baseman, Austin Riley, lifted a flyball down the right-field line. Calhoun sprinted over to the railing, leaned into the stands, and reached up to make the catch. At the same time, Cordell sitting in the second seat inside the stands, raised his large glove toward the ball and came away with a souvenir.

At first, Calhoun looked perplexed, but he immediately broke into a smile, bumped fists with Cordell, and then trotted back to his position in right field with a broad grin on his face the entire time. Meanwhile, back in the stands, Cordell’s mom was ecstatic, and Cordell received additional high-fives and fist bumps all around.

I’ve followed baseball since 1966, and this is the first time I can remember a foul ball being the most memorable moment of a game.

(If you haven’t seen this play, it is available on the Bally Sports website.)

Riley eventually struck out, so Cordell’s expert glove work had no effect on the game, which the Braves went on to win 5-4, by the way. But Cordell’s evening was far from over.

Snagged via screenshot from Ballysports.com

Between innings, first-base umpire, Jansen Visconti, made his way down the right-field line to bump fists with Cordell; someone from the Braves dropped by with a tote bag full of swag for the new Gold-Glover. And then in the top of the sixth inning, former big-league pitcher and current Braves broadcaster Paul Byrd showed up for a live interview.

Byrd began his coverage by saying of the bespectacled Cordell, “He’s got the coolest glasses I’ve ever seen.” (It must be noted that Cordell’s glasses looked remarkably similar to those perched on Byrd’s beak.) Cordell, who had dipped into his tote bag and donned a white cap with a lowercase red “a” on the front of it, was handsome and all smiles when he declared, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m famous in Atlanta right now.”

When Byrd asked Cordell what Calhoun had to say to him, Cordell replied, “He said, ‘You caught that one, let me catch the next one.’” What a great line.

I never have forgotten the experience of my first major-league game, and it wasn’t nearly as eventful as Cordell’s, so I know he will have stories to tell for the rest of his life.

© THE TOPPS COMPANY, INC

For someone who in his younger days knew every player in the big leagues from big stars like Henry Aaron and Willie Mays to common-card players like Len Gabrielson and Vic Power, I am ashamed to say this is my first knowledge of Kole Calhoun. A rookie with the Los Angeles Angels way back in 2012, Calhoun hit 33 homers in 2019, and joined the Diamondbacks as a free agent last season. I don’t know why I never had heard of him.

I’ve spent the first few weeks of the new baseball season wondering how much longer I can follow a game that has devolved into a steady parade of strikeouts, home runs, and walks; relief pitchers making the bullpen gate look like the back door of a clown car hasn’t helped much, either.

But for one night, Kole Calhoun and Cordell McLerran reminded me how much fun watching this game still can be.

(All quotes are from Bally Sports coverage; all statistics are from Baseball Reference.)

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