'It was just a surreal experience': The story behind the father-son duo that caught Andrew McCutchen's 300th home run ball

Noah Hiles, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Baseball

PHILADELPHIA — A life-long Pirates fan, Vinay Mehta has been to plenty of baseball games. It's safe to assume Sunday's 9-2 victory over the Phillies ranks near the top of his list.

Sitting in left field at Citizens Bank Park with his nine-year old son Toren, the two found themselves in a situation nearly every Pirates fan could only dream of: being on the receiving end of Andrew McCutchen's 300th career home run.

With a runner on and one out, McCutchen connected on a 2-2 slider from Ricardo Pinto, sending the ball 99.2 mph directly toward Toren.

"I didn't see it because there were a bunch of people, and then I just felt it hit my hat," Toren said. "Then I knew it bounced up and my dad caught it."

Early on, the ball was nothing more than a cool souvenir for the two. Despite their fandom, neither Vinay nor Toren were aware of the baseball's significance.

"We were actually urged by the Phillies fans to throw the ball back," said Vinay, a 46-year old Greensburg native who now resides in Philadelphia. "I don't think anyone knew that it was his 300th home run. Maybe they did. We didn't."

But eventually, word got around. Before the Pirates could secure their final out of the afternoon, a Phillies employee located Vinay and his son, and then informed them of what had just happened. The two were then connected to Pirates representatives, who took them inside the team's clubhouse to personally deliver the ball to McCutchen.

"It was just a surreal experience," Vinay said as they waited outside the clubhouse. "Didn't really realize it until right before it hit off his cap. It bounced up in the air, and I just reacted and grabbed it. It still really hasn't sunk in completely, to be honest. Amazing experience."


For some fans, catching a milestone home run ball serves as an opportunity to cash in. Demands have ranged from thousands of dollars, to season tickets in exchange for the significant ball. The Mehtas, however, had no such intentions.

"I just want to take a picture with him and maybe get a signed ball," a smiling Toren said.

Waiting to greet the Mehtas was McCutchen, who embraced Toren with a big hug. After receiving the ball, the Pirates designated hitter made small talk with the two, asking how they managed to grab it and letting them know he was happy a fan wearing black and gold could be the ones who made the catch.

As they went their separate ways, Toren could be seen lugging one of McCutchen's bats, with a smile from ear to ear. The young Pirates fan left the ballpark with more than he could have hoped for — and so too did McCutchen.

"Honestly, one of the best reactions I could have gotten from a family, the dad and the son," McCutchen said. "It was very genuine. They didn't want much. They didn't want anything. They just wanted to give me the ball. I was appreciative of that. It makes you want to do more for people, as opposed to people who want the moon, and rightfully so. For him, he just wanted to give it to me. Obviously I had to hook them up a little bit. Makes you want to do it more.

"It was cool being able to meet them. Him and his dad seem like very genuine people. It was a nice little surprise for us."


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