Originally created 10/11/96

Youth in Atlanta ready for a famous catch of their own



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ATLANTA - Lee Malchow and his little brother, Marshall, weren't sure who Jeffrey Maier was, but they knew all about his already-famous catch.

"We were talking about it on the drive over," said the boys' father, Leland Malchow, a lawyer in Augusta. "They were very interested."

A day after the 12-year-old Maier became the toast of New York City with his home-run causing grab - The (Attempted) Catch Seen 'Round the World - kids with gloves were in abundance at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

While the Malchows were camped out behind the left-field wall during batting practice, an even larger group of hopeful young fans stood watch in the right-field stands.

"C'mon, Fred, hit it here," 9-year-old Justin Legendre of Blue Ridge, Ga., yelled as Braves first baseman Fred McGriff took his turn in the batting cage. "I'm ready."

As he waited, Justin repeated a pantomime in which he'd hold his glove overhead, then quickly flip his left hand over as if making a basket catch - just like Maier. This was Justin's first-ever Braves game, and he was just sure someone would hit the ball his way.

What did Justin think of his New York counterpart?

"He was lucky," Justin said, pushing his glasses back into place. "I'd like to do something like that. I'd like to jump up really high and make a great catch."

Standing nearby, Ray Legendre looked at his son and smiled. He realized there would be no such moments in this stadium.

Unlike Yankee Stadium, where fans can lean over and swipe at balls that are in play, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium's generous foul territory and outfield moat pretty much precludes Maier-like actions. Only in the corners, by each foul pole, can fans reach out and impact play.

It may be called the Launching Pad, but it's not called that for it's child star-making ability.

"It was definitely a home run," Ray Legendre said, slapping a fist into his glove. "There wasn't any way that ball was going over the wall. The Orioles definitely got robbed."

Father and son watched the play together on television. When it happened, Justin turned to his father with an urgent query.

"His first question was, `Did he get to keep the ball?"' Legendre said.

Alas, the father had to say, some adult, some memorabilia-seeking kook, raced off with the ball.

Maier may be a hero in New York, but he wasn't the toast of most kids in Atlanta.

"There wasn't much talk about it in school today," said Cody Wilson, 10, of Atlanta. "The kids care more about what happens in Atlanta than New York." "It was kind of dumb," 10-year-old Lee Malchow said of Maier's apparent interference with Derek Jeter's drive to right.

Would he have done the same thing? Malchow offered a sheepish grin.

"Probably," he said before doing some quick thinking. "Actually, I like the Orioles better. If that had been me, I would have caught it and given it to (Orioles right fielder) Tony Tarasco."