That seemingly impossible scenario played out for longtime Indians fan Greg Van Niel on Sunday afternoon during Cleveland's 6-4 win over Kansas City. With a baseball glove on one hand and members of his family around him, Van Niel snagged three foul balls out of the air and scooped a fourth one off the ground.
"Up to that point, I don't think I'd ever gotten a foul ball," Van Niel said. "So, four in one day is catching up, I guess."
A season-ticket holder who's been attending Tribe games for four decades, Van Niel was at the game with his wife and daughter, his brother and sister-in-law and their three kids. After obtaining a ball for each child in the group, Van Niel tossed the fourth ball into a separate section, not fully grasping its significance at the time.
Ball No. 4 landed in the clutches of Dan Lindner, who handed it off to his son Chad. Along with Van Niel, those two were at Progressive Field on Monday to talk about an inconceivable day at the ballpark.
"I'm giving it back to him," said Lindner, who watched as Van Niel lassoed foul ball after foul ball. "I'm some guy who caught a ball that a guy threw out there. It's like catching [one] from [Indians mascot] Slider or something. Not [that there's] anything wrong with Slider, but I didn't earn it."
Van Niel insisted that Lindner could keep the ball. He doesn't seem too impressed with his accomplishment, though he is amused by the fact that it occurred while he was occupying seats that weren't his normal set. Because his brother's family came along, Van Niel exchanged his usual tickets to get seven seats in a row.
"The people that had my regular seats were a little miffed," Van Niel said. "They're like, you know, 'Why didn't we get any balls? You move over there and they all go over there.' ... It was just kind of a fluke that we ended up over there."
Van Niel is aware that some folks laugh at grown men who bring their gloves to baseball games. He said every member of his party had a glove because they were participating in a program that allows season-ticket holders to play catch on the field after the game. Even so, he usually has his glove on his hand during games regardless.
The glove came in handy for three of the four foul balls to come Van Niel's way. Though the odds of his feat have been estimated at one in a trillion, Van Niel thinks that's an exaggeration. He doesn't believe the occurrence is quite that rare -- or meaningful.
"A friend of mine in Bulgaria saw it, and I don't think they know what a foul ball is in Bulgaria," Van Niel said. "I don't think it's significant. It's like statistically interesting, and I think people kind of gravitate toward that kind of stuff, but yeah, it's like, I didn't have to move a lot for most of them. I just had to be there and pay attention and move a little bit."