I often like to tell people that I have the best seat in the house at Camden Yards. My perch in the Oriole Park press box is right behind home plate, with perfect vantage of everything. On most nights it's perfect. But with the box positioned just above the top of the backstop netting, every once in a while, it can be hazard zone when foul balls zip into the press box.
Very rarely, foul balls lead to casualties. And in the ninth inning of Friday night's 13-3 Orioles loss, the 0-2 pitch off Pedro Alvarez's bat killed my laptop.
This is every reporter's nightmare, to be putting the finishing touches on a story that has to be sent right after the final out when fate takes away hours of work. On this night, I saw the foul ball coming straight for me, I ducked but selfishly didn't pull away my trusty laptop and the ball hit the back of my screen with a thud, knocking the screen covering off and turning the words on my screen into zagged cracks of nothingness.
I was lucky. I wasn't the one on deadline. My colleague, Peter Schmuck, was writing the game recap, and I was working on a postgame night blog for our website, something that could easily be rewritten from memory.
And yes, I've had my computer break down before. Every reporter has had to dictate their story on deadline. I remember one time covering a high school baseball game, getting kicked out of the field and begging my way into a closed restaurant so I could use their dial-up modem. The longer you've been in the business, the more stories you have.
Still, this is a situation you never want to be in.
The photo of my cracked screen made the rounds on Twitter, because who doesn't love the sight of total destruction on media. SBNation wrote a whole story about it, even coming up with conspiracy theories about the trajectory of the ball because to them, it appeared that the front of the screen was hit instead of the back.
There's no conspiracy. Trust me, I've been there before. In fact, Friday night was the second time in 10 months that my laptop took one for the team. The first time, when Gerardo Parra fouled a ball back at Camden Yards last Aug. 31, my laptop still worked.
This time, it didn't. Alvarez's foul ball not only left dent just to the left of where Parra's ball hit, but it completely destroyed the screen.
I was told that the exit velocity of Alvarez's foul ball was 76.2 mph, but when you see leather and seams coming at your head off the bat, it seems like it's 106.2 mph.
Like I said, foul balls coming into the Camden Yards press box are a way of life. But there are much more veteran reporters in the press box who have never had a ball come there way, let alone two in less than a year.
In baseball, they always say the ball will find you. And it did … twice. Maybe I did something to anger the baseball gods. Who knows?
But I can't help but, more than anything, be thankful that my laptop was there for me, because on two separate occasions, those baseballs were heading straight for my dome before my screen made the ultimate sacrifice.
Rest in peace, trusty laptop. May your successor be just as strong.