10 Greatest MLB Catches While Diving into the Crowd Since 2000
If you've ever sat in field-level seats, you've seen the signs and heard the warnings to stay vigilant, that foul balls and broken bats could potentially come your way.
Thanks to the actions of the players on this list, those warnings need to be expanded to include flying major leaguers.
For these players threw caution to the wind and, with no regard for their own well-being (or that of the unsuspecting fans in attendance), threw themselves into the stands either to make a catch or as the result of their momentum after chasing down a fly ball.
While every player who has wound up in the stands in an attempt to make a play is remarkable, not all of these plays are created equal. Some are simply more impressive than others—whether it's the catch itself or the fact that the ball never came out of their glove once the catch was made.
Let's take a look at the best of the bunch since the turn of the century.
Oct. 15, 2001: Derek Jeter
While Derek Jeter flying into the stands after making a catch against the Boston Red Sox in 2004 stands as one of the defining plays of his career, the Yankees captain pulled off a similar feat against the Oakland A's in Game 5 of the 2001 ALDS.
With Eric Chavez on first base, one out and the Yankees leading by a score of 5-3, Jeter and third baseman Scott Brosius took off running after a pop-up down the third base line off the bat of Oakland's Terrence Long.
Brosius pulled up as Jeter streaked toward the stands, with the Yankees shortstop heading over the half-wall with his back to the crowd, landing in between cameramen and fans, head-first, on the unforgiving concrete at Yankee Stadium.
Unlike his more famous play against Boston, Jeter emerged from the stands unscathed.
July 1, 2004: Derek Jeter
Technically, Derek Jeter didn't dive into the stands to make what has become one of the defining plays of his career—he made the catch and had a split-second to decide whether to crash into the half-wall at full speed or try to cushion the blow by diving into the first few rows of fans.
For me, it was the only choice Jeter really had, for he most certainly would have ended up with an injury far worse than a cut chin and bloodied face had he taken the padded-yet-unforgiving half-wall down the third base line.
But that Jeter made the catch before heading into the stands takes nothing away from the fact that this was a terrific defensive play, one that not every ballplayer is able—or willing—to make.
That it happened against the Yankees' sworn enemy, the Boston Red Sox, with Nomar Garciaparra (who was locked in a three-way battle with Jeter and Alex Rodriguez for the title of "Best Shortstop in Baseball") sitting on the bench with an injury, only added to the mystique of this play.
Oct. 26, 2005: Juan Uribe
Juan Uribe may have never turned into the offensive force some believed that he would, but the 13-year veteran has always been an above-average defender on the left side of the infield.
The starting shortstop for the Chicago White Sox in 2005, Uribe and his club headed into the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the World Series against the Houston Astros holding a 3-0 lead in the series but only a one-run lead in the potential clinching game.
With one out and a runner on second base, Astros manager Phil Garner pinch hit for shortstop Adam Everett with NLCS hero Chris Burke in the hopes that lightning would strike twice.
Facing White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, Burke worked a 2-2 count on five pitches before sending the sixth pitch of the at-bat down the third base line.
As the ball drifted toward the stands, Chicago third baseman Joe Crede and Uribe gave chase, with Uribe getting up close and personal with Astros fans to make the play.
Four pitches later, Uribe would field a weak ground ball off the bat of Orlando Palmeiro to secure Chicago's first World Series championship in nearly 50 years.
April 29, 2008: Dan Uggla
Much like today's incarnation, the 2008 Marlins struggled to draw fans to the team's home games.
Thankfully for Dan Uggla, there were just enough fans sitting just past first base to help cushion the blow when he leaped—backward—into the stands as he tried to catch a pop-up down the line off the bat of Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal.
April 9, 2009: Johnny Damon
Not yet a liability in the field, Johnny Damon was patrolling left field for the New York Yankees on the day that A.J. Burnett made his first start for his new team.
Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts, batting leadoff, hit a fly ball down the left field line at Camden Yards in the bottom of the first inning.
Damon took off running after it, laying out into the stands to record the first out of the inning—and robbing a young Orioles fan the joy of catching a foul ball in the process.
May 18, 2009: Ben Zobrist
Still one of the most underrated players in the game, Ben Zobrist made the most of his first full season as an everyday player in 2009. He set career highs in home runs (27) and OPS (.948), was selected to his first All-Star game and finished eighth in the AL MVP voting.
A then-28-year-old Zobrist was also playing the best outfield defense of his career, posting a career-best 36.1 UZR/150, according to FanGraphs, largely due in part to his determined pursuit of any ball hit in his direction, including this fly ball off the bat of Oakland's Matt Holliday.
July 20, 2012: Johnny Damon
At this point in Johnny Damon's career, the veteran was a shell of the player that he once was and a defensive liability—but he was still capable of making a spectacular play with the glove on occasion.
This was one of those occasions.
Baltimore had broken the game open with six runs in the top of the third inning, and right fielder Nick Markakis stepped to the plate with one out in the inning, just after Ryan Flaherty's three-run home run off of Indians starter Derek Lowe.
Markakis skied a fly ball down the left field line that Damon took off after, leaping into the stands at Progressive Field in an attempt to record the second out of the inning.
Somehow, Damon made the grab.
Sept. 5, 2012: Jason Donald
Jason Donald took the super in super-utilityman to another level on a September evening in Detroit last season.
With the Indians trailing the Tigers 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Detroit's Brennan Boesch hit a pop-fly down the third base line that was making its way toward the stands.
Donald gave chase, ignoring the railing that he was quickly approaching and dived into the stands, making the play and getting embattled Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez out of the inning.
April 13, 2013: Pablo Sandoval
Known more for his big bat and hefty physical presence, San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval showed off his motor and athleticism early in the 2013 season in a game against the Chicago Cubs.
With the Giants holding a 3-2 lead over the Chicago Cubs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Sandoval took off running after a Luis Valbuena pop-fly down the third base line. Throwing caution to the wind and doing his best to avoid the unforgiving brick wall at Wrigley Field, Sandoval made one of the best catches of the season.
Oct. 6, 2012: Brandon Belt
Brandon Belt's play in 2012 fell under constant scrutiny from pundits and fans alike, but the rookie first baseman didn't let the outside noise affect his play on the field.
Instead, he took his play to the fans.
The first batter that San Francisco's Matt Cain would face in Game 1 of the 2012 NLDS, Cincinnati's Zack Cozart, would hit a foul ball down the first base line that Belt chased after.
As he reached over the railing to make the catch, his momentum carried him head over heels into the stands—not just into the stands, but down a few feet, as the stands were below field level.
Sports Illustrated wasted little time in nominating Belt's catch as the best of the postseason:
Brandon Belt's over-the-railing dive an early candidate for Best Catch of the Postseason. No score, mid-1st. #NLDS— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 7, 2012