Do's and Don'ts of Catching a Foul Ball

Amber Lee@@BlamberrSports Lists Lead WriterSeptember 1, 2015

Do's and Don'ts of Catching a Foul Ball

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Baseball players get paid millions to catch foul balls, which means there isn’t a substantial list of do’s and don’ts to consider. When catching the ball impacts both personal stats and the outcome of a game, "do" is the only option. "Don’t" is even less of an option when the playoffs are involved. As long as the ball is caught and nobody dies, the end always justifies the means.

    For a fan, on the other hand, the pursuit of a foul ball has nothing to do with earning a paycheck or nobly risking life and limb for the benefit of one’s team. It has everything to do with the selfish pursuit of personal glory and gain. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as long as the rules that clearly establish right from wrong in this specific scenario aren’t violated.

    Of course, there aren’t any official rules in place yet, but we’ve put together a list of the basics to serve as a guideline until that time. Let these do’s and don’ts of catching a foul ball guide all your actions from this point forward.

Do: Commit

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    Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

    As with anything one wants to achieve in life, a certain level of commitment is involved. Although it does happen occasionally, it’s very rare that a foul ball will just land in the lap of an unsuspecting fan.

    Picking the right seats, staying alert, coming prepared with a baseball mitt and properly utilizing the aisles can all improve the odds. Being confident and assertive in the melee is also vital—hesitate for even a second and you become a steppingstone for someone who actually committed.

Don't: Overcommit

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    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Commitment, as previously noted, is essential to success. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that the only real reward for success when catching a foul ball is…a foul ball. Sure, catching the ball would make for a cool story and a great souvenir, but only if you live to tell the tale.

    Scrambling down cement stairs, perilously leaning over railings and carelessly jumping over seats in pursuit of a foul ball can lead to concussions, broken limbs or worse. And a baseball isn’t going to ease the pain or pay the medical bills, so never overcommit to its pursuit.

Do: Battle with the Visiting Team

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    J Rogash/Getty Images

    While home-field advantage exists to some degree or another in all major sports leagues, MLB takes it a level above crowd noise or menacing mascots—they allow fans to directly interfere with players.

    So if you have the opportunity to snatch a playable ball from the opposition, well then by all means do it.

Don't: Interfere with the Home Team

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    MORRY GASH/Associated Press

    Mess with the opposing players to your heart’s content, but never interfere with a playable ball when the home team is playing defense. Don’t even take a chance with a ball that looks like it it’s probably beyond the reach of the closest outfielder.

    In that situation, it’s always best to play it safe, pull back and let it fall where it may. If the player misses the ball and it lands in the stands, then obviously it’s fair game.

Do: Improvise

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    If catching a foul ball is something you consider a top priority at a baseball game, planning ahead and bringing a mitt along is a must. But some people just aren’t planners, preferring instead to act and react to opportunities as they present themselves.

    Should you unexpectedly find yourself in the path of a foul ball, being mittless isn’t the end of the world, particularly if you’re fast on your feet. Never be afraid to improvise—anything that widens your grip or extends your reach will improve your chance to succeed.

    And always double down on a good idea. If using your hat to extend your reach is a good idea, and throwing a kid on your shoulders to gain some height is also a good idea, then throwing a kid on your shoulders and letting him use your hat to extend his reach is a great idea.

Don't: Take Your Eye off the Ball

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    More often than not, “keep your eye on the ball” is easily dismissed as just another tired cliche in a linguistically lazy world that is full of them. In sports, however, it’s a fundamental rule, and ignoring it can have serious consequences.

    While athletes learn about the literal interpretation of the rule at an early age, the rest of us don’t have decades of fastballs whizzing perilously close to our faces to cement its importance. Then again, it’s not like catching a foul ball is on par with a real athletic endeavor.

    Keeping your eyes open is just common sense if you’re trying to catch something. However, if embarrassing yourself is the primary objective, closing your eyes and flinching dramatically is the way to go.

Do: Utilize the Parenting Bullpen

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    Of the various professional sporting leagues, baseball (generally speaking) is probably the most family-friendly live event. The crowd definitely intensifies as the playoffs approach, but the laid-back atmosphere through much of the 162-game MLB season is far more suited to children than, say, the always-burning-with-rage atmosphere of the 16-game NFL season.

    Bringing the kids along doesn’t immediately disqualify a parent from competing for a foul ball, but the rules dictating basic human decency should still apply…dad. Let’s not pretend that accidentally dumping children on their heads to free up space to catch a baseball is something that needs to be explained to mom.

    Which is why it’s best to lean on mom in this situation—there’s no shame in handing the baby off. There's lots of shame in accidentally dropping it. 

Don't: Succumb to Mob Mentality

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Being cognizant of our surroundings and able to adjust our behavior accordingly is one of the major things that separates humans from animals. A bear in church isn’t going to act any different than a bear at a strip club. Whereas most people, we like to imagine, know there’s an entirely different code of conduct expected (and amount of cash required) for church versus a strip club.

    So next time you’re at a baseball game, look around—basic powers of observation will indicate it’s a sporting event and not, as some people seem to think, a live-action sports adaption of Lord of the Flies. It’s just a baseball, which is not a reasonable or rational excuse for the complete (if not momentarily) collapse of everything that holds us together as a society.

Do: Consider Giving the Ball Away

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    As painful as the idea of parting with the fruit of your labor may seem after finally getting your grubby little mitts on a foul ball, it’s rare that paying it forward can pay such immediate dividends. Worst-case scenario, you give the ball to someone and everyone in your immediate vicinity thinks you’re a seriously swell human being. Yeah, you’re down a baseball, but you’re being rewarded with the approving head nods and smiles of countless strangers.

    Best-case scenario, you’re slick enough to pick just the right person, attracting both the gaze of the cameras and the attention of the guys calling the game. All of a sudden, you’re not just a nice person with a giving spirit, but rather a national treasure whose game exceeds anything that has ever played out on a baseball field. The opportunity to play the hero without incurring even the slightest bit of risk almost never comes along—take advantage when it does.

Don't: Strong-Arm Women, Children or the Elderly

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Not everyone has it in them to give away something they may never again have the opportunity to replace, and there is no shame in that. No one should be pressured or forced to give away a foul ball that is rightfully their own.

    That being said, the mere act of catching the ball shouldn’t be enough to determine absolute ownership of a ball. Certain actions taken during the course of a pursuit—like grown men mowing down children, expectant mothers or the elderly—should be grounds for instant forfeiture.

    While such behavior isn’t implicitly verboten, those who choose to engage in it run the risk of being personally identified and publicly shamed on social media—something that can have far-reaching consequences. 

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