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I was at an Arizona Fall League game the other day and got to see firsthand the hierarchy of who should get a foul ball argued amongst fans.
Now if you’ve never been to an AFL game, let me preface it by saying that there is generally less than 300 people at a game, and most of them are working for one of the 30 MLB clubs. Another chunk of them are older folks who really aren’t trying to chase down foul balls. The remainder are either people who could chase fouls balls but don’t (me), grown-ups who do chase down foul balls (these are often the autograph hounds as well), and kids.
Another piece of the equation — players, coaches, umpires and bat boys aren’t allowed to throw balls into the stands, otherwise I believe they get fined. This will factor into the story.
So I was sitting at Peoria Stadium in the section behind home plate watching a game, and a couple of foul balls were hit down the left field line, where an older guy in a wheelchair was sitting with whom I presumed was his wife. The left fielder doesn’t toss it to him for the reason mentioned above. This encourages a guy sitting around me to start yelling “give it to the guy in the wheelchair!”
A few innings later a kid started moving towards the same area where the guy in the wheelchair was. Foul ball goes into the left field bleachers. Both the kid and they guy’s wife go after the ball – not a scrum or anything, mind you, she was much closer to it than the kid was – and she gives the ball to her husband.
She gets booed for it. People start yelling “give it to the kid!” as they are often known to do at ballgames.
Now this pisses me off. Why does a kid take precedence over a guy in a wheelchair? So I figured there must be some kind of hierarchy established to figure out who gets a foul ball in cases such as these.
Of course we could argue specifics ad nauseam, so I’d want to stay a bit more general. So let’s start with the kid versus the guy in the wheelchair? Who should get that ball?
I say the guy in the wheelchair — even though he’s older, he’s at a distinct disadvantage. If he wants one and it’s within reasonable distance, he gets it. The kid can wait for the next one. If anything, the kid should be made to offer it to him.
Now, a kid in a wheelchair trumps both of them.
At the bottom of the list almost without exception is the 25-65 year old white guy. Seems like no one wants him to get a foul ball. He’ll be yelled at to give the ball to a kid, even if he’s got one of his own at home who would love it. That doesn’t seem to count for much, and you know he doesn’t want to explain it and no one wants to listen to him.
But that leaves quite a bit of room in the middle. Who do we slot into this hierarchy?
Where does grandma fit in? Where does a guy with a kid fit in? By himself he’d stand no shot, but does the kid boost him up? And how old does that kid have to be in order to help?
Something to think about.