Joe Maddon replies to Washington heckler with personalized ball smeared with pine tar

David Brown

Joe Maddon went out of character Tuesday night when he angrily blasted the Washington Nationals for busting Tampa Rays pitcher Joel Peralta for having pine tar on his glove.

His thoughtful, measured and generous response to a notorious Washington, D.C., heckler was much more Maddon-like.

Nationals fan Robin Ficker, who made his bones heckling the likes of Michael Jordan and other NBA greats who dared visit the Washington Bullets back in the day, peppered Maddon on Thursday with taunts about pine tar. Ficker was referring, of course, to the Peralta incident in the series opener Tuesday — for which the pitcher got an eight-game suspension from Major League Baseball, and Maddon has taken much grief for his views on cheating and snitching.

After putting up with Ficker's yapper for a couple of innings, Maddon responded to Ficker — seated in section 117, row K, near enough to the visitors dugout at Nationals Park — with a signed ball that said:

Stick up for those you care about!

The ball also was smeared with pine tar, the unofficial MLB substance of the week. Thankfully, @ChanningPejic took a nice picture and notified WaPo's D.C. Bog and the word got out. The Nats got the last word for the moment, beating Peralta and the Rays in the series finale, though we'll see what happens to Peralta's appeal of his suspension.

And does this mean that Ficker will be a fixture at Nats games the rest of the pennant race?

Who (outside of D.C.) knew that Ficker was still active in the sports heckling business? The Nationals revival (or, "vival") has given us so many beautiful side stories. And it's only June.

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