The Ethics of a Ball Into the Stands

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in the stands when a foul ball or home run comes sailing your way. It goes not too far past you, but far enough so that you don’t make an effort to go after it. A number of people a few sections over DO go after it, though, and when an adult male pops up with the ball, holding it aloft in his hand triumphantly, he’s met with a cacophony of screams and shouts telling him to “GIVE IT TO THE KID!” Invariably, the man searches around for the nearest kid and meekly hands him or her the ball under the angry glare of the other fans.

Why, though, does this happen? Why do people feel compelled to yell at a complete stranger to demand that the other person give away a prize that they had only just then acquired? It happened to me once at a Chicago White Sox game when I managed to get a Jeff Keppinger foul ball – with no one other than my then-girlfriend now wife around me – and I was met with nothing but the angriest of shouts from all corners until I gave the ball away to a kid. Note – I had not yet got a foul ball before this time. I have since…and I want many more. But here I was, succumbing to the shouts.

I have always looked at a game ball as the ultimate souvenir from a baseball game. In fact, other than ice hockey (where it’s relatively rare), no other sport lets you keep the object that is/was used in the game itself. If you get it, you should be able to keep it without the scorn of others. While I came close to a ball a number of times – I had my hand on a Sandy Alomar foul ball at Yankee Stadium in 1992, but someone managed to snatch it away from me. I’m still disappointed about that – I didn’t get my first ball until I was 43 years old, thanks to a Kyle Seager foul ball in Seattle. I’ve managed to get a few more since in various locations. I treasure them.

The yellers and screamers were at it once again at the Jumbo Shrimp game this past Wednesday, and it got me to wondering if I am the only one that advocates for keeping a ball for yourself or for your own kid? So, I asked a few friends for their opinions on the matter and whether they would give in to the shouts of know-nothings? The responses we good:

  • Friend 1: If my kids didn’t already have a few, then I’d keep it for sure. But I’d give the ball to a kid now, and it depends on how close the kid is. In the same row or immediately in front/behind, then yeah, sure. Two sections over and the kid comes begging for the ball? Then, get outta here!
  • Friend 2: I’m giving it to the kid, but I would totally think differently if I had kids. But it should be first come, first served and no one should yell at you no matter what.
  • Friend 3: F*ck ’em. We have been waiting our whole lives for a foul ball. Let them scream.

So it looks like “keep it and ignore the yellers” has a slight lead from the informal straw poll.

One caveat that I think we can all agree upon is that if the ball hits someone and hurts them, they get it no matter what. I had a guy in front of me at Wrigley Field misjudge a ball one time, and it nailed him in the nose causing a break and massive bleeding. All in front of his (now horrified) kids. Some jerk a few rows down got the ball and actually taunted the injured guy for not catching the ball. Classless. Give the ball to people injured as a result, folks.

I understand the differing opinions on this subject, especially in places where home run balls are routinely thrown back. (that’s nuts, in my opinion.) I’m going to ignore the yellers, keep the ball for myself and my daughter, and have some nifty things to enjoy and discuss for years to come. I’d love to hear other opinions on this, so please feel free to share your opinion below in the comments.

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