Matthew Clarke, like many baseball fans, has always had a dream when he headed to the ballpark.
"Every time I go I feel like this is day, this is the night I'm going to catch that ball," he explained.
Friday, when the Rays took on the Cleveland Indians at Tropicana Field, Clarke was still dreaming about that elusive foul ball. But with seats behind the netting behind home plate, he figured Friday wouldn't be his night.
"When I sat down in the seats we were at, I thought, well we got a really good seat but there's no way a ball is going to come our way," he said.
But in the bottom of the third inning, with James Loney up to bat, he finally got his wish in the worst kind of way.
"I'm taking a picture of right field with my cell phone and, uh, boom," he described.
The boom was the ball, hitting Clarke in the face.
"I had no idea what had happened , I can hear people screaming but I have no idea what's going on," he recalled.
As he sat with his hands covering his now swollen face, he says shock set in, then he thought something else.
"My first thought is ok, so if I'm hit with the ball, where's the ball?" he said.
Luckily, his wife Jennifer was by his side.
"When I saw it coming closer I just kind of grabbed for it, then the next thing I knew it hit him and I had it in my hand," Jennifer Horton-Clarke said.
Clarke sported quite the shiner for the rest of the weekend. Monday, he smiled through the pain after a quick conversation with the Rays.
"They're gonna have James Loney sign the ball and return it to me," Clarke said.
Clarke says the signed ball will go to his recently born grandson, but the experience will stay with him in the form of a lesson all baseball fans should know, whether they have a foul ball dream or not.
"Pay attention when you're at the baseball game," he said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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