Greater joy hath no mother than the thrill of seeing her son hit his first collegiate home run. But that love ends quickly if she can’t get the ball back.
Such a scenario nearly played out recently at Appalachian State (N.C.) where former Montgomery Bell Academy baseball player Jon Eisen belted his first college home run for Columbia of the Ivy League.
The sophomore switch hitter lined one over the right-centerfield field fence in the first inning for the Lions, and that’s where an interesting story unfolds.
Gay Eisen, Jon’s mother, who was watching the game from the stands with her husband Steve (who both travel to many of Jon’s games), raced to the right-field area to attempt to retrieve the ball.
A recent snowfall in the area had left a big snow bank behind the outfield fences. Eisen’s home run ball had landed right in the bank, and Gay ran right to the hole in the snow where the ball landed. She delightedly pulled the ball out of the snow.
“I jumped out of my seat and ran for the right field area so fast, I’m not even sure I remember Jon running around the bases,’’ she said. “When I got there, I was so happy that I had found the ball.’’
But she didn’t get to keep the ball, at least not without a fight.
“When I picked the ball out of the snow pile, this pipsqueak of a guy on the other team comes running up to me and says he needed the ball back -- something about the team trying to keep the balls and save on expenses,’’ she said. “I explained to him that it was my son’s first collegiate home run, but he persisted in trying to get it back.
“I thought if I didn’t give him the ball, I was going to get into trouble. But I wasn’t about to give that ball up.”
That’s when a little second effort paid off.
“I noticed there was another hole in the snow where another ball had landed, and we got the one out of there,’’ she said. “It was kind of grimy and dirty, probably having landed out there a few days ago.
“I told the guy to take that ball back in and let me keep mine. He said OK, but he said he’d have to check with his coach first. He said that he would come out of the dugout and look for me if they needed that other ball back. He was about 6-5 and about age 18. I’m not really sure what would have happened if I hadn’t seen the hole where the other ball was.
“I went into hiding under the grandstand for about three innings, but the guy never did show back up,’’ she added, laughing.
Steve Eisen, a prominent Nashville attorney, watched the whole thing from a distance. At one point he wondered if a mediator was needed.
“When Gay went out to look for the ball, I looked out there and saw this guy approach her with what began with a normal conversation,’’ he said. “After a moment, it looked like it was becoming more than just a civil discussion, getting more animated, and I didn’t know what was happening.
“But she came back with the ball. I can’t think of any circumstance under which she was going to gave up that ball.’’
Eisen’s homer helped give Columbia a 3-0 lead, but the Lions lost the game 8-4.
And where is the baseball these days?
“It’s at our home,’’ Gay said. “We’re keeping it here with his baseball memorabilia.’’
It’s just that particular memento that comes with a story.
Making his name for Columbia
Actually, Eisen is having another solid season for the Lions. He started 38 of 39 games, finished the season with a .331 average and twice was named rookie of the week in the Ivy League in 2009.
This season, playing mostly third base and some at second, Eisen is hitting .368, second-best on the team, with a .441 slugging percentage with eight multiple hit games batting primarily second in the lineup. He has stolen five bases in six attempts.
Because of the winter weather up North, Columbia, as usual, opened the season on the road for nearly the entire month of March. The Lions started 1-3 at UNLV and finished the lengthy trip over several states at 3-11.
They finally opened their home season over the weekend with a four-game sweep over Bucknell during which Eisen went 5-for-12.