The odds of winning the lottery or being struck by lightning are astronomical, but the proverbial lightning bolt struck four times for Cleveland Indians fan Greg Van Niel on Sunday. He managed to reel in four foul balls during the Tribe's 6-4 win over the Kansas City Royals.
According to Max Lom of MLB.com's TribeVibe blog, Van Niel is an Indians season ticket holder who had never before caught a foul ball at Progressive Field. Considering how many games Van Niel has probably attended during his life, the odds were bound to swing in his favor at some point.
That is precisely what happened on Sunday, as Van Niel managed to gain possession of four foul balls, according to the Indians' official Twitter account.
Van Niel's stroke of luck is even more incredible when one takes into consideration the fact that he wasn't sitting in his usual seat. Van Niel took advantage of Progressive Field's season-ticket exchange, which landed him, his brother and his two nephews in Section 160 down the third-base line, according to Lom.
Catching a foul ball is a unique experience, and Van Niel's description of his day certainly seems to confirm that notion:
Three of them were catches and one was a ball I picked up off the ground. The third one I think was the hardest one – I think I ended up sprawled across a few rows, and I got some cheese on myself. But the other ones were just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
He gave away the fourth foul ball that he caught, which came off the bat of Indians outfielder Michael Brantley in the fifth inning, according to Lom.
ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted a screen shot from a Twitter user who put his Microsoft Excel skills to the test and determined that Van Niel's lucky day had a one-in-a-trillion chance of happening.
Those calculations may be a tad off since not every foul ball is caught by someone and not every seat at Progressive Field is in foul territory. Regardless, Van Niel beat very long odds.
To put it in perspective, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery grand prize are one-in-175,223,510, according to Powerball's official website.
Knowing that, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea for Van Niel to stock up on lottery tickets in hopes that lightning somehow manages to strike for a fifth time.
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