Baseball bleachers are a melting pot. There are young fans and old fans. There are die-hard fans and fair-weather fans. There are rich fans and poor fans. There are fans of every gender, race and creed.
Most importantly—when discussing the integrity of the game and the impact those in the stands can have on the outcome—there are smart fans and then there are those dumb idiots who try to touch a ball in play.
Those people should be locked up forever. At the very least, they should never be allowed within 10 rows of the field.
No, on second thought, I'm okay with locking them up forever.
The following slides present simple rules of etiquette for fans enjoying great seats at a baseball game. You'd be amazed at how often the rules come into play.
This weekend, Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez hit a shot off Cole Hamels to left center field in Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park when a fan—a Phillies fan—reached over the wall to grab the ball out of midair.
Or was it? Upon review, the umpires ruled the ball would have gone out either way, giving Ramirez the two-run homer that tied the game (the Marlins went on to win, 5-4). Even if the ball actually would have been off the fence, there's no way to know because that irresponsible fan helped the visiting team by catching the ball too early.
Replays showed the fan and his buddies joking and high-fiving after the play, completely unfazed that his actions impacted the game and, possibly, hurt his team.
See ball. Catch ball.
Fans have to be smarter than that. If you sit in the front row, you have to be smarter than that.
Fan interference has long been a part of baseball lore. Jeffrey Maier is a Yankee folk hero after the then-12-year-old stretched out from the right-field stands in Yankee Stadium to steal a home run for Derek Jeter in the 1996 ALCS, changing the course of baseball history.
Steve Bartman may have also changed baseball history. Bartman was one of a host of fans down the left field line at Wrigley Field who tried to catch a foul ball in the eighth inning of the 2003 NLCS. Moises Alou thought he had a play on the ball and threw a tantrum when Bartman interfered. The Cubs blew a 3-0 lead and Bartman became the convenient excuse for the team's failure to reach the World Series.
To this day, nobody (outside Chicago) is sure if Bartman really did anything wrong. He certainly didn't do anything any other fan in the crowd wouldn't have done. Yet whenever people think of the 2003 NLCS or the Cubs Curse, it's Bartman who gets blamed, not Dusty Baker's mismanagement or Kyle Farnsworth's relief implosion in Games 6 and 7.
Bartman has become a cautionary tale, which fans repeatedly ignore when heading out to their front-row seats in ballparks around the country.
The simple lesson: Never touch the ball until it is actually in the stands.
Sadly, life (read: baseball) is not that simple, so click forward for a more few rules for being a good and responsible fan when a ball is coming your way.