How To Snag a Souvenir Baseball

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 15, 2008 · 30 comments

in Manly Skills

snagball1.jpg
Photo by luca.nassini
Baseball season is once more upon us. Millions of Americans will be heading to stadiums across the country to root for their team. At the game you’ll find hundreds of souvenir options: pennants, programs, jerseys, and the like. These will all cost you an arm and a leg, and they’re not even that great.

The best souvenir to bring home is a baseball you caught. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and it was actually used for play. It comes with real memories attached. But a ball isn’t going to simply fall into your lap; catching one takes a bit of finesse. Here’s how you can walk away from a ballpark with a souvenir baseball:

Equipment

Make sure to bring your glove to the game. Sure, you may look like a dork, but when a foul ball is coming at you at over 100 MPH, you’re going to wish you had it. Moreover, most foul balls have a wicked spin coming off the bat. Catching a ball with such a spin with your bare hand is pretty much impossible. So, bring your glove.

Don’t be an uber dork and bring a fish net. That’s just cheating.

How to snag a ball before the game

Go to batting practice. This is your best chance to snag a baseball. The ideal place to stand is in an aisle near the field, about three quarters of the way from third base to the foul pole. Most players are right handed and will be pulling the ball during batting practice. By placing yourself in this spot, you up your chances of catching a ball.

Just ask the players for a ball. While batting practice is going on, there are other players out fielding the balls. Oftentimes, if a ball goes near the stands, they will just toss the ball to the fans. If you get near a player who has a ball in his hand, politely ask him for it. He’ll probably just give it to you.

How to snag a ball during the game

Do you want a foul ball or a home run? Snagging a ball during the game is much more difficult and takes more planning and strategy than trying to snag one during batting practice. Yet pulling it off is far more satisfying. The first decision you need to make is: what kind of ball do you want? Are you happy just settling for a foul ball or do you want to catch a home run? The answer to this question will determine where you should purchase your seats. If you can walk away with any ball, it’s been a good day. But home run balls carry with them greater sentimental (and possibly economic) value.

If you’re happy with just a foul ball, you’ll want to sit somewhere near the alley between third base and the foul pole or first base and the foul pole. It’s easier to grab a foul there.

And if you want a homer? Well, that pretty self-explanatory. Sit in the outfield bleachers.

Do your research. You’ll want to do some research before the game about the opposing team’s pitcher. If it’s a lefty, the batting lineup will be loaded with righties. In that case, sit near the first base line. It’s harder for batters to pull during a game, and they are more likely to swing late, and thus foul in that direction. If the pitcher is a righty, sit near the third base line.

Also do some research on the stadium. Are the walls very high along the base lines? If they aren’t, try to get as near to the wall as you can. It’s easy to reach over and field ground foul balls. If the walls are high, your chances might better if you go a little further back to catch a pop up foul.

A great resource to research stadiums for optimum foul ball catching is Snagging Baseballs. Zack Hample has caught over 3,000 game balls at every major league stadium. In his blog, he discusses each trip to a stadium and chronicles how he snagged a foul ball there. Check it out before you make your ticket purchase.

If you’re interested in catching a home run, an excellent resource to check out is HitTracker. It tracks how far each home run went for each player and where it went in a stadium. Most players consistently hit homeruns in the same area. Looking at these statistics can give you an idea of where to sit in the outfield so you can walk away with a home run ball.

Catch it. Put your glove on and get ready to catch your ball. If you’re near the baseline wall, you can always try picking up a grounded foul ball. If you’re behind home plate, you’ll definitely want to use a glove. The spin on foul balls that go behind home plate can be quite wicked. Only a glove will do.

Fan Interference

Don’t get in the way of the players. If you’re going for a ball make sure it’s clearly out of play before you go for it. This can be difficult to tell, especially if you’re near a wall where it’s easy for you to take the ball out of play. Not sure? Spectator interference is defined as anytime a spectator “reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and touches a live ball.”

Here’s the official MLB rule for fan interference:

3.16
When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

So, if the ump decides that you clearly got in the way of a fielder catching the ball, the batter is out. However, any ball on the spectators’ side of the wall is fair game for you. The player reaches over the wall at his own risk.

With ground balls that roll near the wall, make sure it’s a foul before you reach over and grab it.

Avoid fan interference at all costs or you risk becoming the most hated person in a stadium full of thousands of people. The most notorious example of fan interference is that of 12 year old Jeffery Maier during the 1996 American League Conference Series between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.

During the 8th inning, Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter hit a fly to the right field wall. Oriole right fielder Tony Tarasco backtracked and positioned himself to catch the ball just short of the wall. 12-year-old Jeffery Maier, a spectator seated in the bleachers, reached out to catch the ball, and deflected it away from Tarasco and over the fence. Umpire Rich Garcia ruled the play a home run, which resulted in the Yankees tying the game. The Yanks went on to win the game and the series. Jeffery Maier went on to be the most hated 12 year old in Baltimore. Don’t do what he did.

Ethical and legal ramifications of ball catching

Give the kids a chance. Don’t be a douchebag and prevent a little kid from catching a ball. I’ve seen this happen at several ball games. It’s quite unseemly and everyone will hate you. Don’t be that guy.

Don’t resort to violence. When you go after a ball, it’s natural for you to get banged up. Especially if there is a scuffle for a prized home run ball. However, in your effort to snag a ball, don’t resort to violence to get it. Don’t punch, bite, scratch, or intentionally push somebody to get a ball. First, you’re tool if you do. Second, it’s just a damn ball. No need to bloody someone else up for it.

Who owns the ball? Surprisingly, your snagging of a ball could carry some legal ramifications. As many of you know, I’m a law student. One of the most interesting cases I’ve read during my law school career was Popov v. Hayashi: the Barry Bonds 73rd home run ball case.

Basically what happened was that two guys claimed they caught Bonds’ 73rd homer. They took it court and a judge decided they both had valid claims for legal ownership. So the judge ordered them to sell it and split the proceeds. Here’s a link to the court opinion. It’s a fun read and you’ll pick up some basic property law principles to boot.

Also, if you get a chance, watch the documentary about the case called Up For Grabs. It’s hilarious. You’ll be amazed by the greed of the two men fighting over a ball. Popov is a complete character: a total media whore. He ended up racking up over $473,000 in attorney fees. The ball only sold for $450,000, of which Popov got $225,000. That means this guy was in the hole a quarter of a million dollars.

Lesson learned: don’t go to court for a dumb ball.

Sources

Men’s Health

How to Snag Major League Baseballs

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eric April 16, 2008 at 4:07 am

Actually, as a life long Orioles fan and Baltimore resident, I feel the need to correct you by pointing out that the “Jeffery Maier playoff game” was at Yankees Stadium, not Camden Yards. The right field wall at Camden Yards is too tall for any fan to directly interfere with a right fielder trying to catch a fly ball. Needless to say, that damn kid was not the most hated person in that stadium full of thousands of people. But he was the most hated person in a city full of thousands of people several hundred miles away.

2 Brett April 16, 2008 at 5:24 am

@ Eric- Thanks for the correction. I wonder what ever happened to that kid…..

3 Amy April 16, 2008 at 6:12 am

2 words: Steve Bartman…

4 cory huff April 16, 2008 at 8:05 am

Nice. I used to sit at baseball games with my grandpa and yell, “Go Dodgers!” No matter who was playing, simply because grandpa was a Dodgers fan.

5 Trent Hamm April 16, 2008 at 8:37 am

I got socked in the face by a foul ball when I was a kid at a minor league game. Afterwards, the pitcher and the catcher both signed the ball for me – and they both wound up making the big leagues, albeit in minor roles (Larry Luebbers and Brian Hunter).

6 Rodney Hampton April 16, 2008 at 5:50 pm

I thought the lesson from Popov v. Hayashi was that the lawyers always win!
:-)

7 Rick April 16, 2008 at 7:08 pm

You should include something about Steve Bartman and the Cubs in the section about interfering with the players.

8 Josh April 16, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Funny enough, Jeffery Maier ended up becoming a minor league baseball player. Guess who owns his contract? The Orioles. Looks like he will never play in the Majors.

9 Darren April 16, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Good piece… I especially like that you reminded people not to get mental when chasing a ball. Specifically, when it comes to kids. I’ve seen full-grown “adults” practically step on children in order to get to a ball before them, and they got every bit of grief they deserved. It’s pretty low to deprive a kid a chance of a lifetime.

To those who mentioned Steve Bartman, Bret and Kate got it right with their original mention of Jeffery Maier. Steve Bartman never reached over the wall, the ball was in the stands and if he didn’t try to catch it, the ball probably would have hit him. Alou never had a chance to catch that ball, though it was a good effort. As a life-long Cubs fan, I was more disgusted by Alou’s temper tantrum on the field (and the Cubs subsequent meltdown after that) and the ridiculous overreaction by Cubs “fans” that caused that poor man to go into hiding, literally fearing for his life for quite some time.

10 Iain April 17, 2008 at 5:49 am

Regarding Steve Bartman, Darren is spot on. Alou even confessed–albeit years later–that he never had a real chance to catch that ball. Bartman’s victimization resulted from a lot of folks wanting to find an excuse for the Cubs’ blowing what looked to be a sure-fire trip to the series.

As for the rest of the piece, very nicely written. But I confess that I subscribe to the rule stated by Rick Reilly in one of his columns, namely, “Any baseball caught by a fan should immediately be handed to the nearest kid.” I’d add a corollary that the kid has to at least look interested first before any obligation kicks in. But c’mon. We’re adults here. Memories are enough.

11 Brett April 17, 2008 at 11:06 am

@ Trent- That’s one of the things I like about minor league teams. They do really nice things for the fans. I doubt what occurred to you happens regularly in the pros.

@ Rodney- . Popov sued his attorney for malpractice after the sale of the ball. He was trying to weasel his way out of having to pay his attorney. Of course, he lost. So you’re right. Lawyers always win.

@ Josh- I heard about that. What a twist of fate that the kid who screwed the Orioles ends up playing on their farm team. I hope he gets some playing time.

@ Darren and Iain- Agreed. I thought it was a crime what happened to that guy. Cubs fans were just looking for another scapegoat besides that real goat that supposedly cursed Wrigley Field and the Cubbies.

12 Ryan Taylor April 17, 2008 at 3:34 pm

“You’ll want to do some research before the game about the opposing team’s pitcher. If it’s a lefty, the batting lineup will be loaded with righties. In that case, sit near the first base line. It’s harder for batters to pull during a game, and they are more likely to swing early, and thus foul in that direction. If the pitcher is a righty, sit near the third base line.”

You would have to swing early to pull the ball. This sentence is just wrong. YOU pull the ball when you swing early. You hit to the opposite field when you dont swing early.

13 Brett April 17, 2008 at 4:00 pm

@Ryan-Yup you are right. I meant “swing late” not “swing early.” I always read my posts over several times before publishing, and I still can never manage to catch all my mistakes. Thanks for the heads up.

14 Brad April 17, 2008 at 5:36 pm

I agree with all your points but one – bringing a glove.

If you’re old enough to buy a beer you’re too old to bring a glove to the park. It’s been my experience that your best chance for a ball is on the first bounce, anyway.

15 Gary Slaughter April 17, 2008 at 6:31 pm

I’m not much of a baseball fan, and certainly not a beer fan, but I’ll always remember a Pabst commercial I saw only once. Two guys are sitting in the bleachers and there’s a really old guy with a really old glove sitting in front of them. The old guy’s pounding his glove and saying, “C’mon!” There’s the crack of the bat and everyone jumps to their feet as the ball is coming toward them. One of the younger guys catches the ball (one-handed) and deftly slaps it into the old man’s glove.

The only other person who knows what happens is his friend, who looks at him and quietly says, “Give that man a Blue Ribbon.” I think that commercial said a lot about being a man.

16 Iain April 17, 2008 at 7:37 pm

@Gary: I remember the same commercial, Gary. And you’re right, it does say a lot about being a man. Too bad the beer sucks.

17 Baseball Quiz May 5, 2008 at 6:32 am

Nooo you gave away my batters cage trick :P

18 John May 14, 2008 at 11:13 am

Yes, I was denied twice as a boy. Once at Veteran’s Stadium and once at Yankee Stadium. Each time a grwon man next to our group snagged the foul ball away from our attempts to catch it. In neither case did the man have a child with him.

19 Darryl August 30, 2008 at 8:59 am

I remember going to a ballgame and was sitting on the third baseline during batting practice and the game. and beside me was a little kid and his mom, who decided to take him to the game for his birthday. I remember catching a foul ball that dribbled across the field, right into my glove. I had no hesitation at all: I took the ball out of my glove and gave it to the kid and wished him a happy birthday. The look on the kid’s face is a look I’ll remember for a long time! And it’s a great feeling too!

20 Marcellus October 8, 2008 at 8:02 am

My kid brother used to always ask umpires for a ball after the game, as the umps are leaving the field. True you’re not actually catching the ball, but it worked every single time.

21 Dave November 12, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I just read a guy’s Blog on MLBlogs and he has written a book called “Taking Home A Piece Of The Game”. His name is John Witt and he has been collecting baseballs for over 30 years. He has caught over 4850 baseballs at professional games including 99 Major League Game Home Runs.
The book not only tells you how to set up your day at the ballpark but it gives you pointers from how to get tickets to where to go in the ballpark to get a baseball or autographs. He also shares stories about some of the more memorable home runs he has caught such as Sammy Sosa’s 61st HR in 1998, 2 home runs from Eddie Murray in the same game that Murray hit from each side of the plate and a few others. It is a pretty cool book for sure!

I think you can check it out here https://www.createspace.com/3358632

22 Chris Patchin June 6, 2009 at 5:59 am

It’s true, my ten year old son and I recently attended a Major League game and were fortunate enough to sit in the dugout box seats, my son was lucky enough to snag not one, but two foul balls, what are the odds? I don’t even think my son remembers who was playing, but those two foul balls made a ten year olds dreams of catching a foul ball come true.

23 Dallas August 5, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Another “good” idea is seats above the home team dugout where the first baseman will be entering his dugout after catching the third out. He has a ball in his glove that he will flip into the seats. Todd Helton tossed a ball to my son a few years ago. I say “good” because you don’t want to get a foul ball rocketing towards your kid that skips off the top of the dugout enough to pick up some more wicked spin & change directions quickly. Never had that happen to me but I’ve seen it happen. Always make sure to watch every pitch!!
@Gary-When I read this article I was thinking about that commercial. Funny how a commercial can make such an impact.

24 Mesothelioma December 1, 2009 at 2:14 pm

All about batting practice, it’s fun to sit out and watch before the game with the kids, and if you get a ball it’s all the better. I’m a big fan of AAA ball, and have gotten a few balls from it. Love the post.

25 Walter May 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I remember when I was about 11, our school went to a Brewer’s game. I had saved up all summer to get a team autgraphed ball. I got one at the game, it was awesome, that was back when Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, ect. played. I had it in my coat pocket when some of my friends and I snuck up to the press box to see Bob Uecker. We went in and were quickly escorted out by a guard! Anyway when I got back to my seat the ball was gone. I almost cried. Major disappointment!

26 Riley May 16, 2010 at 7:49 pm

I went to a minor league game and i got 3 autographs and a foul ball… it was cool.

27 Dave Miedema May 18, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I’m certainly not gonna shove or knock over a kid for a ball…BUT…if I catch it fair and square, I keep it…PERIOD! If some horse’s derriere yells at me to “give it to a kid”, my response is usally “You want the kid to have one? YOU catch one and give it to him!”

Another thing I won’t do is sell a ball I caught on eBay. One of the guys who hangs out on Waveland Avenue outside Wrigley Field tries to sell his home runs on that site. I say “tries to sell” because his prices are so inflated that the stuff never moves”.

28 Tom Haggas April 4, 2013 at 12:27 am

I read a stat somewhere that women and children are most likely to get hit by a foul ball. (I assume from not paying attention.) If you are going with loved ones, sit between them and home plate. I caught a foul from Mike Aviles last year. It was on the road in the eighth with the Sox up big. The KC fans had all left, so we had three whole sections to ourselves.

29 bruce d April 30, 2013 at 5:52 pm

One tip i could give is, if a ball is coming near an isle or any concrete area and there is a group of people jumping for it. Stand back and get it on the bounce.it is hard to catch a foul ball and almost impossible if people are crowded around you.I got a lot of foul balls at a minor league park with this

30 Frank June 22, 2013 at 12:25 am

I know I’m responding to a comment from 5 years ago, but the commenter who said Jeffery Maier had a minor league contract is mistaken. He never was signed by any major league farm system and never played in the minor leagues.

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