Going to a baseball game is like riding a roller coaster at an amusement park. Fans are advised to keep their hands inside of the ride, and the grandstand, at all times. A man wearing a glove who was sitting in the front row at Great American Ball Park did not heed the rules Sunday afternoon, and created some old-fashioned chaos for the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers as a result. Replay review eventually brought order and, probably, the correct result, but for a minute or two there, a souvenir-seeking fan had conjured a free run for the home team.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Reds led by two when Ramon Santiago sent a fly ball deep to right field. Outfielder Logan Schafer leaped at the fence, but did not come down with the ball after the fan in question reached over and dropped it onto the warning track. Schafer's reaction was odd, because he saw the ball on the ground and picked it up, but he showed no urgency in doing anything else but engaging the fan in conversation. He didn't put his arms over his head to signal the umpires. He didn't rush the ball back into the infield as Santiago raced around second base and into third.
Heck, even the fan put his arms up to signal, presumably, a "my bad."
Santiago slowed down at third but, egged on by his coach, the dugout and the crowd, sprinted for home. By then, Schafer realized, "Hey, I maybe should throw the ball into the infield," but the relay by Scooter Gennett was late and Santiago had scored — for the moment.
Replay officials checked and ruled, apparently, that the fan prevented Schafer from making the catch. No inside-the-park home run, and not even a double, but an out. It's Rule 3:16:
When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If a spectator clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.
Tough call for the Reds, and manager Bryan Price grimaced at umpires with displeasure as he argued, but Schafer is one of the better defensive outfielders in the league. He probably catches that ball.
Here's another angle:
But the fan's interference doesn't speak to the mistakes Schafer made in the wake of it.
• Always put your arms up for the umpire. It's universal ump sign language for "something weird just happened, time out."
• Just get the ball back into the infield as quickly as possible. That way, even if Santiago scores, they'll pin it on someone else.
• Don't talk to the fans while there might be a live ball. Whatever they say, it isn't as important as the goings-on on the field.
Womp, womp, wommmmmp.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the Brewers outfielder as Jordan Schafer.]
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