Yesterday’s Brewers-Pirates game refuted the notion put forth by some casual baseball fans that a 1-0 game isn’t interesting. If your heart wasn’t rattling your rib cage with every beat when K-Rod had two on with one out in the ninth, I wonder how you know you’re alive (in fairness, you may have a better sense of perspective than me). To pull off that win, the Brewers had to do almost everything right and catch more than a few breaks along the way. One glaring break they caught was courtesy of that Pirates fan who fielded Jonathan Lucroy’s bloop hit.
In his post-game remarks, Ron Roenicke said he thought Lucroy would have reached second base without the fan’s interference…but c’mon. Lucroy held up because he thought it landed foul, and was just about halfway to first base when that guy picked up the ball. There’s no doubt in my mind Lucroy would have been held to a single. Since Lucroy ended up advancing and scoring the game’s only run without the benefit of a hit, it’s easy to argue that fan cost the home team the game.
As far as Brewers fans are concerned, everything worked out for the best. Still, the incident did highlight an aspect of baseball I think we can all agree on – fan interference is unforgivable.
Baseball is the only sport where spectators are close enough to interfere with a ball in play. Fans can’t break up a pass in football or block a shot in basketball. Hockey fans are physically separated from the ice. The only way a spectator could interfere with any of those sports (as well as others like golf or tennis) is by making a conscious choice to be disruptive – to run on to the field and commit a criminal act. In baseball, a fan can interfere with the game by not paying attention.
I assume all ballparks have similar rules for fans that interfere. Here’s how it’s phrased on PNC Park’s information page:
In the interest of player and Guest safety, PNC Park maintains a zero tolerance policy regarding fan interference with a ball in play or a player during the game. Failure to comply with the policy could result in immediate removal from PNC Park and criminal sanctions.
“Zero tolerance” policies lead to all sorts of preposterous unintended consequences in certain settings, but in an MLB ballpark they seem perfectly appropriate – and they must be enforced swiftly and without remorse.
It’s understandable why interference happens. When you see the ball coming your way, your attention becomes fixated on it and you forget where you are. Instinct takes over, and all your animal brain thinks is, “Mine!” That’s a natural reaction, but sitting in the front row means you must overcome your natural reaction. You have some of the best seats in the house, and with a great seat comes great responsibility.
All baseball fans in such positions must be mindful of their surroundings and the extra care they must take. If you are in a front row seat, either in foul territory or in the outfield – where you could spoil a homerun like a real jackass – take a moment to reflect on whether you can handle the burden of such privileged spectatorship. If you can’t deal with that, surrender your seat to someone more vigilant. Anything less would be uncivilized.