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Oneil Cruz's homer brought a scare for a group of Nationals fans

Jason Mackey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Baseball

WASHINGTON — Richard Pederson was enjoying a beautiful summer night at the ballpark and flipping through his phone Monday when he heard the crack of a bat, looked up and saw a small white sphere hurtling toward the seats in section 142 that he occupied with his cousins, Hannah and Ben, and his uncle Don.

With Oneil Cruz, the Pirates’ Statcast darling of a prospect standing at home plate, Pederson didn’t have time to do much — just put his phone away, brace himself and try his best to pull in the laser beam of a solo homer as it whizzed toward the group’s seats in right-center field.

“As it was getting closer, I was thinking, ‘This can’t be happening,’ ” Pederson said. “I thought someone else would catch it, but then I realized, ‘Oh, (expletive). I’m gonna have to catch this.’ Tried with one hand. Obviously that didn’t go so well.”

The Pirates dropped their fourth in a row, as third baseman Maikel Franco’s two-run homer in the eighth inning off Chris Stratton carried the Nationals to a 3-2 victory at Nationals Park. It represented Pittsburgh’s 44th loss, dragging manager Derek Shelton’s team to 15 games below .500 at 29-44.

But before that late-inning momentum shift, where Franco went down and got a first-pitch slider, the biggest moment — and inarguably the most impressive homer in this one — came from Cruz. Nowhere was the shortstop’s pure power more noticeable than here, along the front row, with the Pedersons.

Richard Pederson actually spent most of his childhood in Hong Kong, the son of a lawyer, and played plenty of baseball overseas. He stays in touch with his youth coach to this day. In fact, Pederson emailed him the moment Cruz’s homer was clearly too much for anyone to handle to apologize.

 

“I just said, ‘Everything you taught me … it’s all for nothing,’ ” said Pederson, again reliving how the homer bounced in and out of his hands. “I’m sorry I disappointed you.”

The ensuing madness of the home run also cost the Pedersons the ball. After he missed it and nobody else could reel it in, the ball bounced harmlessly to the grass. While the Pedersons tried to figure out what happened, Nationals right fielder Juan Soto threw it back to the dugout.

Richard Pederson, who attended Georgetown and just finished graduate school at Johns Hopkins, even drew a look from his cousin Ben, who apparently shook his head in disgust.

“I’ve never seen someone look so disappointed in me so instantaneously,” Richard Pederson said.

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