If you've ever been to a Hillcats game you may have seen Ronnie Mayberry, also known as "The Foul Ball Guy."
Mayberry, 68, has a routine that's worked for four years. He leaves his front deck, hops in his scooter and is off to the ball park, down Callahan Street and onto Rives Street. A few blocks later he's at his 'home away from home.' "I've met a whole lot of people out here. I've met a lot of friends. It's just something I enjoy doing," he explained.
What does he do? He collects foul balls but doesn't exactly know why. "I reckon just tired of sitting at home. It's better than watching TV and stuff."
Since 2009 he traverses the parking lot in search of baseballs. "Most of the time I see them come over here and then if I can get to them before get out of their car and get 'em I'll get 'em and put them in my bag and then I'll see a child before he leaves the game or comes over here, I'll run up to him and give it to him. It's a good feeling. Like the other night I gave a ball to a little child who was in a wheel chair with the MDA and his face just lit up after, I asked him 'If you want that ball, and he said 'yeah.'"
Before collecting foul balls, Mayberry graduated from E.C. Glass High School in 1963 and then got drafted into the Army in 1965, during the Vietnam War. He only served for just 89 days. He was honorably discharged because he couldn't keep up with the regimen, possibly because of the fact he had CMT, a form of muscular dystrophy. It's a neurological disorder that damages the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to his muscles.
Once he returned to Lynchburg from Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he got a job at Babcock & Wilcox, worked there for 27 years and now he's been retired for 20.
Mayberry, a Yankees fan, "but I like Atlanta too," said snatching foul balls is a nice way to spend retirement. He gives them to grandparents to give to their grand kids and he gives them to youth teams so they don't have to buy new ones. "I've given out about 500 balls," he proudly exclaims.
When he was diagnosed in 1987, he used a cane and still uses a walker in addition to his scooter. "I had to get me a scooter because I lost my balance and I can't walk or stand on my feet. It's a disease that won't kill you but it just makes you weak and makes you dependent on a lot of people."
Collecting baseballs and handing them to people who could use them more than he, may be his way of returning the favor and at least for now, he has no plans to stop. "I'm going to continue along as long as I can. As long as this scooter holds out," he said with a bit of laughter.
Mayberry, married to his wife Mary for 44 years, has three children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He's been to every home Hillcats game except three in the last four years (roughly 280 games) but said the last full game he actually watched was in 2009 - the last time the Hillcats won the Carolina League - but he said he'll be in attendance Wednesday night to root them onto another title.