Monday, May 4, 2009

Fan law: When to reach for that foul ball

Here's the situation: Two outs, ninth inning, Rays up by two. Pop-up headed towards the third base stands. Longoria ranges over, reaches into the stands for the ball, but the home-field fans reach up and touch the ball, keeping the game alive. Longoria yells at fan. Percival yells at fan after the inning eventually ends. Manager Joe Maddon chastises fan during post-game news conference about "fan etiquette".

So what's the obligation of us, the fans, if we're in those first two rows and there's a pop-up? Are we (all of us in those seats) expected to be totally aware of the situation and back off when our fielder is going for the ball, conversely going for the ball if the fielder is a visiting player?

Do teams/players have the right to expect us to do this?

When I've been lucky enough to sit in that seat and there's a pop-up our way, I/we are all looking up at the ball and we have NO idea if a player is standing next to us ready to reach in after the ball. The focus is UP and everyone's jockeying for position to grab the ball. I can't ever remember hearing a neighboring fan yell out to let it go since the 3B (or 1B or C) is close and going for it. I'm sure we'd all like to be totally self-aware and know when to call your fellow fans off, but in all likelihood, that's not going to happen. Even if you DID know the situation, realized the player was close and had a chance, do you really think you could get your neighbors to back off in time for the player to make the play?

So what's the PRACTICAL fan law? If it's in the stands, it's fair game?

Bartman has been a recluse since 2003 as a result of something just like this. Was it worth it? Was it fair?

What are your thoughts?

**NOTE: the picture to the upper right is NOT the play in question


ditmars1929 said...

I will agree with you, Jason. The action is UP, so you're not going to be aware of what the player is doing. More importantly, I'd say it's rather instinctive for the fan to go for the ball. I'm sorry for the third baseman, but if a ball is coming my way, the hell with him. I'm getting my hands up to protect myself. Really, would you rather catch a ball coming your way or get bonked on the head?

The one thing that does piss me off and is totally unfair to the player is when a ball is drilled down the line and fans literally bend over the wall with their arms dangling down to snag the ball, even if it's obviously fair. Those fans need to be shot by security.

Alex K said...

Two posts that remind me of the 2003 Cubs in a row. The loud noise you hear is me hitting my head on the desk.....

I think the Bartman ball should have been called fan interference. To me, that ball looked to be in the field of play. I might not be the most impartial person either. However, I feel terrible for the guy. No Cubs fan can say for certain they would not have done the EXACT same thing. It's not Bartman's fault that Alex Gonzalez booted the easy double play ball, or that Prior fell apart after that. It's also not his fault that the Cubs lost game 7.

To the bigger point, I think that the players and coaches just have to accept that if the ball is in the stands, they are going to have to fight for it like everyone else. In a perfect world home town fans would be aware enough to let the player have a free shot at the ball, but that's not how it works. I've been to a lot of baseball games in my life and do you know how many balls I've caught? Zero. Not one. So I get that chance I'm going to take it. The only time a player has a gripe is with fan interference (that goes uncalled).

Jason @ IIATMS said...

Alex: Sorry for the dual 2003 Cubs references; purely coincidencidental, I assure you!

I think Ditmars is also right about the balls on the field, down the line. Fans have gotta let those go, especially if the home team hits it!

Alex K said...

I was pretty sure you're just out to get me. :)

I'm with you on the balls down the line thing. I really dilike that. I think people that mess with a fair ball like that should be kicked out of the stadium. I did see a fat guy fall on the field earlier this year (on a foul ball). He leaned on a door and it flew open, leaving him with a face full of dirt. It made my day.

Mark said...

Unless you want to get hit on the head, you should never take your eye off the ball if it's coming towards you. And if it's coming at you in the stands, then go for it if you want the souvenir; or don't if you want the team in the field to catch it.

And dear players and managers: if you think a fan catching that foul pop up was why you lost the

Carl the Big Fool said...

I concur--if the ball is coming towards you in the stands, you best be watching the ball. It's mighty hard to judge whether it's going to be catchable by the player until the absolute last moment, and if you let it go until then that could get you (or your kid!) hit on the head.

Ron Rollins said...

Sorry, not of that works. If you're in the first 3 rows, you know you are in the first three rows and the fielder might be able to reach in and catch the ball.

Unless you have to turn your back to the plate to see the ball, it's in play and you need to back off, if you're a fan of the team in the field. No other scenaio works. If you don't want your team to win, then your not really a fan.

If your in the 4th row or farthr back, fair game. The field can't reach it.

If your in the first 3 rows, and your actions keep the fielder from catching the ball, you deserve the scorn and ridicule of the player, manager, or anyone else.

And no, one foul ball won't change a game. Neither will one homerun, but Yankee fans ran Farnsworth out of town because he gave up homeruns.

Obviously, using that rationale, none of them cost the Yankees a victory and he should still be pitching for them. Because it was just one pitch and one play.

Ron Rollins said...

That's the problem with the 'fans' today. Too many of them think everything that happens is about them, and have forgootten that it's acutally about the game.

Yeah, I know. Crazy, isn't it. But not catching a foul ball so your team can make an out is an acceptable part of life.