Saturday, June 25, 2011
Updated: June 26, 3:01 AM ET
Vet relishes moment after nice catch
NEW YORK -- Michael Kacer had been trying to put together a trip with his nephew, Isaiah, for a while, and something always came up.
It turned out to be worth the wait.
Kacer, a veteran who lost his left arm in a 2008 rocket attack in Afghanistan, is enjoying the spotlight after his terrific catch of a foul ball at Yankee Stadium on Friday night attracted national attention.
"Just like a wild roller-coaster ride," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Saturday. "Just a thrill."
Kacer, 29, of Scranton, Pa., was watching the game with his 13-year-old nephew when Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson fouled one back and to the right of the visitor's dugout during the first inning. The ball took a big hop and headed toward Kacer, who was sitting in the first row, with a railing separating him from a concrete concourse a few feet below.
"It was quite a stretch," he said. "I actually didn't think I caught it until I brought it back and realized the ball was in the hat."
Yup, Kacer brought it in and immediately handed the ball over to Isiah, a big Yankees fan who was attending his first major league game. Then he lapped in the praise from the impressed crowd.
"It was amazing," said Isaiah Kacer, who also lives in Scranton. "I figured they would cheer but I didn't think they would get as loud as they did for him."
It was only the beginning.
Video of the great grab quickly showed up on the web, and ESPN showed it on SportsCenter during its top plays segment -- a surreal experience that left Kacer almost speechless as he watched with his glowing nephew.
"I was like 'Dude, this is unbelievable,'" said Kacer, a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.
Kacer is part of a team of wounded veterans in town to participate in Sunday's ninth annual Achilles Hope & Possibility 5 Mile Race through Central Park. The race features about 5,000 able-bodied and disabled runners from all over the world and is the signature event for Achilles International, a nonprofit focused on athletic opportunities for people with disabilities.
The Yankees game was part of a weekend of events for the veterans, who are rehabbing at Walter Reed Medical Center and rode a bus to New York on Friday. The group visited ground zero and the Statue of Liberty on Saturday.
Kacer and his teammates were recognized on the field before New York's 4-2 loss to Colorado on Friday night, receiving a loud ovation from the Bronx crowd of 46,028. Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher and manager Joe Girardi also came out to the mound to extend their best wishes.
"Really great guys," said Kacer, who had his picture taken with Swisher and Girardi.
Isaiah Kacer found a spot in the lower level to grab some photos from the stands while his uncle was on the field, and the two decided to stay in the prime seats until the ticketholders showed up.
That smart move put them in the right place for Granderson's foul popup.
"I thought I was going to catch the ball or go over the railing," said Kacer, who was in the National Guard for 11 years. "One of those two things was going to happen. Fortunately, I caught the ball."