Foul ball leaves sweet aftertaste

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littlephilliesgirl-webCall it a moment of fatherly love, in the city of brotherly love.

When Laurel Springs’ Steve Monforto reached over the railing and caught a foul ball hit off the bat of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Jayson Werth, during the baseball team’s Sept. 15 game against the Washington Nationals, he was ecstatic. The lifelong Phillies fan and season ticket holder, sitting in the 300 section with his wife and two daughters, had never caught a foul ball before.

After taking in the cheers from surrounding fans, he handed the ball to his 3-year-old daughter, Emily, to share in the celebration.

What happened next has captivated sports and non-sports fans alike as a shining example of a father’s devotion to his daughter.

Taking the ball, Emily proceeded to throw the ball over the section railing, into the seats below. Cameras caught a surprised look on Steve’s face, as well as on his wife’s, Kathleen, and on other fans.

“She just thought she was catching ball with her dad,” Steve said, or, as he recounted how Emily puts it, “playing Phillies.”

Seeing that his reaction and that of the crowd had startled his daughter, Monforto scooped up Emily in his arms and gave her a big hug to let her know that everything was all right.

Phillies executives, seeing the interaction captured on television, then came down to the family’s seats and presented Emily with a baseball — not the one she threw, but a replacement one.

Emily is enrolled in the pre-school program at John Paul II Regional School, Stratford. Steve and Kathleen have another daughter, one-year-old Cecelia, who was also at the game.

Monforto, a 1991 graduate of St. Peter School in Merchantville and 1995 graduate of Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill (his parents, Don and Kathleen, currently work there in the History Department and front office, respectively) recounted that his family’s special Phillies game almost didn’t happen.

“It was a last-minute thing,” the project manager at Moorestown’s Lockheed Martin said, noting that he only purchased the tickets at 5 p.m., right before the 7:05 start time.

Appearing on NBC’s Today show a few days later, the family received personalized Phillies jerseys from the organization, and an encased baseball signed by Jayson Werth, who hit the foul ball Monforto caught.

With the family caught in a whirlwind of media publicity the last week and a half, Monforto said they are ready to go back to being “average Joe’s.” However, the family has the father/daughter moment recorded on DVR at home, and Steve’s parents have recorded most of the media coverage, so there are plans for a scrapbook of sorts, reminders of the special moment Emily and her father shared at a summer baseball game under the lights.