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The DRaysBay guide to foul ball etiquette

It's high, it's deep, it's . . . foul. And it's coming right at you! What do you do???

John Ford

A few days ago, in Boston (of all places), this happened:

(h/t Deadspin)

My favorite part of this video is the terrified look on the mom's face up until she realizes the guy is going to give her kid the ball and not, I don't know, sexually harass her? You can almost see the get away from me you freaking perver – oh. Well, then. Thanks.

And in the comments of the Deadspin piece where I first saw this video was a flow chart from an older Deadspin piece, "Do You Deserve That Foul Ball? Consult This Handy Chart." I've always liked the chart, and you should definitely check it out. But I do have some issues with it. So we at DRaysBay would like to offer up some amendments.

If you're the type who needs their flowchart at the top, FlowChartpdf .

If you're reading on a mobile phone and loading all of these videos will ruin your day, jump over to a video-free, mobile-friendly version. If not, read on.

The Basics: To Glove or Not to Glove

Lots of people seem to make a big deal about whether adults should wear gloves to baseball games. Know what? I don't care. Truth is, if you follow the rest of the rules below, it won't matter if you wear a glove or not.

That said, you should be aware that some people will judge you for toting a baseball glove to a baseball game. These are generally the same people that don't think adults should wear jerseys with players names on them. You know, those people. But if not being judged is important to you, here is the rule of thumb: if you look like you could maybe still play in Williamsport, you get a pass (no one will check your birth certificate, so don't bother with the forgery). If not, some stick-in-the-mud will have a problem.

All that being said, I don't glove. Not because I think I should feel any shame for doing so, but because I usually sit in seats where balls rarely show up. Plus, I happen to think there is nothing cooler than barehanding a foul ball (see below). But you be you.

Glove Alternatives

Before I move on from this point, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that there are alternatives besides bringing a glove or trying to make a barehand snag.

There is the tip o' the cap:

Just make what you're wearing is actually, you know, a cap...

Oh, Joey...

Then there is the beer catch 'n' chug.

Good job, bro!

But while a food or beverage container is always a good tool of the ball wrangling trade, you should know that throwing your food or beverage container at the ball will not help in making the catch. (This is obvious, right? Please tell me this is obvious.) Plus, the batter gets three bases.

Okay, now that the tools of the trade of covered, let's move along to...

The Basics: Don't Be a Hog

Look, I know in the Trop, you are used to having lots of room to operate in your pursuit of free range baseballs. And I get that tracking a ball in flight while being cognizant of your surroundings is not an easy thing. If you were good at it, you would probably be down there on the field yourself. Or at least not leaving profane voicemails when your softball coach moves you off your favorite position.

So let's get specific here: diving over/running over people is not cool:

While the ball in the air: if you are in a full row, you get your seat. That's it. Think of it like NFL pass interference, or NBA charging/blocking. Wait don't do that, because both those rules are bogus. Think of it like going to bed with your wife/husband and/or significant other. Once it gets to sleeping time, you get your side of the bed, and that's it. If your partner intrudes in your space in the middle of the night, you feel perfectly justified laying a hip check or an elbow into them. Same goes for foul ball hogs.

Of course, we're talking the Trop here, so how often does a packed row happen? More likely is a partial, or even an empty row. And if you are in an empty row, you get the whole row. Not two rows down where people are already sitting; just your row. Don't get greedy. Give other people a chance. And if you are in a partially empty row, you get half the distance to the next person. And if you haven't been paying attention to how many people are in your row, you just get your seat. That will teach you to pay more attention to your surroundings.

Once the ball hits the ground: At that point, pretty much all bets are off as far as territory goes, but the basic rules of traffic control still apply. Running over people is still wrong. This, however, is perfectly acceptable.

The Basics: If You Caught the Ball, You Deserve It

Seriously. Unless you're one of those diving people who just went all Josh Donaldson on a kid to get that foul ball, you deserve it.


Finders Keepers is the American Way. You should never, under any circumstances feel obligated to give up a foul ball that you wrangled with your own two hands. That ball is yours, dammit.

That said . . .

Why Are You So Obsessed with What You "Deserve"?

We've established the basics now. It's time to move on to the philosophy of ball wrangling, and more precisely, why we are so obsessed with getting what we "deserve". I mean, are we in middle school or something? If you are, then I guess you have an excuse. Though if you were my kid, you would be due for a swift kick in the ass if you behaved like some these miniature marauders do today, disrupting everybody else's game experience with their self-centered "look at me" shenanigans. But I digress.

What I'm saying is, if you are an adult, you really should be over this "make sure I get what I deserve" shtick. We are part of a larger community. It's time we all stopped thinking about what we're entitled to, and started thinking about what is the classy thing to do. It's good karma. It makes the world a better place. I mean, how awesome is this?

The Ciiiiirrrrrcle of Liiiiiiiifffffe

Also: All those snot-nosed, whiny, pain-in-the – er, angel-faced cherubs?

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

They are the future fans of this game we love. You give a little kid a foul ball, and you have exponentially increased the odds that s/he will be a fan for life. Which means there will still be baseball to watch after your own children have abandoned you to a decrepit nursing home in danger of being shut down by the state. So even if you're a traditionalist who doesn't buy that hippie, existential hogwash of giving a kid a baseball being the "right thing to do", you should be able to see it for what else it is: an investment.

So we've covered the basics, and we've covered philosophy But there are of course some special case scenarios.

Your First Ball

If you have never caught a foul ball/home run before, forget everything I just said; you deserve to keep it. It is sacred. Screw that crying kid in Section 127.

Trying to Impress a Girl - Part I

This one is for the dudes. If you catch a foul ball and give it to a girl in an effort to impress her . . . you have just wasted a foul ball. I know this is hard to understand but, a baseball is a lousy pickup line. They can see right through that smarm. No, the reason to give a girl -- pretty or not -- a foul ball is the same reason you would give anybody a foul ball: because she looks like she might appreciate it. This isn't trying to score. This is called being a normal human being. You should try it some time.

Trying to Impress a Girl - Part II

Okay, so you're a playa. And you know you can pull off the "impress a girl with a baseball" trick, because you've seen it done. You know that what you have to do to impress a girl with a baseball is play the pay the girl no nevermind at all and give the baseball to a kid instead move.

Great. Congrats. One word of warning though: The second you look like you're trying to pull off this move you've failed worse than if you had just given her the ball. This is a seriously high-risk maneuver. Dude in the Red Sox clip at the top? Sure he made that kid's day, and that's a wonderful thing. But take another look at the girl sitting beside him.

That is who he was trying to impress. You could see it all over his face. And he practically gave her a watch this look. Dude! Rookie mistake! Know what you get with a watch this look? A slap on the shoulder, an "OMG, you are such a dork" look, and neon sign over your head that says "dude-bro." Do you have any idea how long it takes to turn off a dude-bro sign?

Great Catches

When you make a great catch on a ball, and everybody sees it and cheers and gives you high fives, that's your reward. The ball itself is one you really should give away. Not saying you are "obligated" to, mind you. Just, it is strongly recommended. If you pick the right person, it will be a story he or she can tell for a long time.

Example: Once upon a time, I was taking in an Orlando Twins game at Tinker Field. A few rows in front of us, there was an old couple. (I was 20 at the time, so "old" is relative. Somewhere between 50-70? Who knows?) And Paul Sorrento, then of the O-Twins, hit a screaming line drive, foul, right toward the woman's face. And she froze. Just locked up. Didn't move a muscle with the ball headed right for her nose. And I'm thinking, oh sweet merciful Tony Oliva, this is not going to end well.

Then, at the last instant, the old dude calmly sticks out his right hand and snags the line drive with his bare hand. Just spears it. Like a -- spear -- or something, uh, spear-ish. And she lets out a little squeal, and people applaud, and he waves, and then he hands her the ball, and she kisses him on the cheek.

I like to think that old dude got lucky that night. All because of proper foul ball etiquette. And this one incident is why I don't glove at baseball games. Because I want to be this old dude. I want to be the foul-ball-spearing-hero. Will it happen? Eh. But everybody needs a dream. It's what keeps Cubs fans coming to the park every year.

Milestone Baseballs

There's no denying that catching a home run is cooler than catching a foul ball. But there are times that that ball is actually more important to the player who hit it than it is to you. (What? The world doesn't revolve around me you say?) This will usually either be a first, or something with a round number, because people are drawn to zeros. You won't have to wonder if the ball you just caught is one of those milestone balls; the organization will send someone up to talk with you. If you are a jackoff, you make insane demands. If you are a normal person, you get an autographed ball or a jersey or some kind of team paraphernalia. If you are rude, you insist on giving the ball back to the player and accepting nothing in return, because it's "his ball."

What? How can I say that's rude, when I just spent an entire piece talking about doing the classy thing? What kind of ish is this?

Lemme tell you something my mother taught me: when someone wants to give you a gift, it is rude to reject it. You are stealing their joy (whether they realize it at the time or not). Gratefully receiving a gift is just as important as generously giving it. So when you catch Tim Beckham's first home run, and they want to do something nice for you, you say thank you and you let them. Then you treasure that souvenir like you would the baseball. Because that was a pretty special moment.

All Of That In One Handy Guide

So here's the guide. Print it out (legal size, because it's a legal document). Take it with you to the ball game. On very high foul balls, you may have time to consult it before the crucial moment of action. We sincerely hope it helps.