Foul Balls and Hero Worship: Praising When We Should Be Cringing?

Last weekend, on Mother’s Day 2015, the actions of a father at a Philadelphia Phillies game made headlines when we snagged a foul ball while his child was snug in a front loaded baby carrier on his chest.

NewSiteBackGroundThis image of Philadelphia Phillies fan Mike Capko catching a foul ball with his seven-month-old son strapped to this chest has been plastered all over the place: MLB, ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, and so on.

He’s become a sensation; some have even dubbed him a “hero dad”. But is he?

Go to a game and you see roughly 30 foul balls, and sometimes a great deal more, go into the stands. Foul balls are more common than actual hits, in fact. While I’m still working on the historical data to confirm, there are at least 45 fouls hit per game on average. Sometimes a game goes without so much as a single.

Look at my @FoulBallz Twitter feed or just search “foul ball” on Twitter alone and you’ll see images of people who’ve been blackened and blued and bloodied by a foul ball; you see the dents in the walls of the announcers box; you see people who were dumb enough to be taking a picture while there was a batter in the box post the end result of the picture, when the foul ball entered their section and scared them. You’ll see all of that and more.

Yet here people are acting as though this man did something amazing, even profound.

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He caught a ball with his child on his chest. A cool thing? Totally. Unique? Hardly. Last season alone at least four other dads did a similar thing. It seems we have short memories.

My issue isn’t that it wasn’t a cool catch. My concern, more accurately, is that he’s being lauded as some super cool dad.

@Esquire was the first major publication I saw that had the guts to question this instant celebrity. I then saw a few others questioning it.

I have to agree with Esquire and the others. Treating him as though he’s some kind of super human is dangerous. And I am talking literally.

I’m the guy who does the foul ball thing after all. I’ve brought together the largest grouping of foul ball data on the internet. And I don’t like this one bit.

While I admit it’s a cool catch, the father in me cringes at the thought that his child could have been killed by his decision. Thankfully it didn’t turn out that way, but it could have. If he hadn’t caught the ball, it could have careened off of him and killed his kid.

I’m not alone in this either. Others have stated similar objections. I’ve even heard rumblings that the dad should be brought up on child endangerment charges. I don’t doubt that’s a thing, but it seems a bit extreme. But if he’d missed, you know people would have been calling for his head.

Given the laws regarding contributory negligence, he wouldn’t have stood a chance at collecting anything from the Phillies either.

In an earlier post, I laid down some rules about foul ball etiquette and common sense. I’d like to add this one piece to it to help clarify the rules a bit more: If a foul ball is coming at you, and your kid is on you in some way, TURN AWAY FROM THE BALL TO GUARANTEE YOUR KID IS SAFE, like one mom did at a Pirates game on Mother’s Day. Turn your back on the ball. Take one, in essence, for the team.

It’s shameful that so many are praising the man for potentially endangering his kid’s life. He got wrapped up in the moment of catching the ball instead of having the foresight to protect his kid. Any mom out there knows: The kid comes first. So dads, let’s do what moms do: Protect the kid; forget the ball.

And this coming from the guy who studies and admires foul balls. That should tell you something.