What did we just see? We saw the Stephen Bartman play manifest itself at Tropicana Field except for the fact that a) it was during the regular season b) the Rays won the game and the series and c) the culprit wasn’t a previously unknown person who become instantly vilified. No, the fan who took the ball out of Carlos Pena‘s glove was Matt Geiger, former center/power forward for the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, and Philadelphia 76ers. Here‘s video of what happened. Is there anything we can learn from this?
Fans, please pay attention to what’s going on the game. I understand that if we’re shelling out money for tickets, at the very least we want to come home with a game-used ball. When I got a ball during spring training this year, I was absolutely elated. But it’s certainly not worth getting ejected from the game, wasting your money in the process, to go for a ball. It’s inexcusable how often fans lean over the stands to snag line drives down the lines on balls that are often fair. Fans should never be allowed to lean onto the field of play for any reason. Let the ballboy or a player get the ball, and maybe if you’re lucky, he’ll flip the ball to you. That’s the way it should be if the ball does not go into the stands.
And all this applies especially when a player on the team you root for is coming over for the ball! Matt Geiger is apparently a Rays fan. Why the heck did he take away the ball from a Rays player?
Do you want to be the next Bartman? Of course not. Maybe if an opposing player is coming over and the ball is already in the stands, take a grab for it. But even that is pretty sketchy. Baseball cares more about unwritten rules than other sports. Shouldn’t at least the most minuscule amount of that apply to fans as well? Why we can’t we have respect for the players on the field? We go to games to watch, not participate. Let the players play, and if a ball is hit that is unplayable and in the stands comes to you, then you can grab it.
We all remember the Jeffrey Maier play. But especially in today’s age of instant replay on home run calls, reaching over the railing to catch a ball can only be derogatory for your team. Maybe the ball hits off the top of the wall and goes into the stands? Or maybe it gets away from the outfielder chasing it and goes for a triple or an inside-the-park home run? Sure, there’s always a chance the ball will be caught, but there’s a significant chance that a fan who reaches over the railing to grab a flyball is taking a huge play in the game and making it not as good as it could have been.
Fans, don’t do stupid things like taking a ball away from an player attempting to field it. If you’re lucky, people will laugh at you like this Geiger situation. If you’re unlucky, people will hate you for the rest of your life. It’s just not worth it.