Foul Ball Rules and Etiquette: Don’t Act the Fool Up in Here, Please

On April, 20, 2015, there was a foul ball incident at the Pittsburgh Pirates – Chicago Cubs game. At this game a woman turned her back on the game as she worked her way to her seat behind the netting at PNC. She reached her row, turned her back to the action and was nailed by a foul ball to the back of the head. Throughout the season and into 2016 there was a seeming epidemic of foul ball accidents; there seemed to also be an epidemic of foul ball injuries right after this incident.

As a result of these fans, most of whom weren’t paying attention, I feel it is important to once again review some of the common-sense rules and etiquette all baseball fans—Major League Baseball, MiLB and in general—should follow while at a game and while seeking out and going for a foul ball.

Over the course of the five season has been around, I’ve devoted my time to scouring the internet, emphasizing my search on Twitter, to bring you a list of the accepted and preferred etiquette when going for a foul ball (or home run) during a game. While some of these are easily seen as tongue-in-cheek “rules”; others aren’t. Despite the cheekiness of a few points, these are some of the best ways to enhance the fan experience and minimize the craziness that sometimes comes with going after foul balls.

The “13 Rules for Foul Ball Interactions”

  • While uproariously hilarious, it is considered bad form to punch, hit, shove or otherwise battle a player going for a foul. Fighting for a foul just makes you look like an ass. Set a better example. Don’t be an ass.
  • NEVER interfere with a play in foul territory. Especially if the player going for a close foul ball is on the team you’re rooting for. Who can forget Steve Bartman? Everyone should have learned a lesson from this poor soul anyway. If the ball is a few rows back, like in the Joey Votto incident in 2016, that’s fine. Just don’t be a Bartman.

  • Human shields are NOT acceptable, nor is ducking out of the way to protect yourself rather than a significant other or child. Placing your significant other, child or a friend in the path of an oncoming foul ball will bring the wrath of other fans. Deservedly so. One should strive to avoid embarrassment at all costs. Ducking behind someone or bailing on a ball headed right at them is bad form…as this young man discovered. Again: DON’T DO IT! Chivalry should not be dead.
  • Most acceptable (and talented) way to catch a foul ball is in your beverage. The beverage of choice is beer. Requisite action after catching a ball? Chug the beverage in whole or in part, preferably in whole. See the preferred action here and here….but sometimes things don’t work out. Nachos are also acceptable…and funny.
  • In order to keep the ball and, more importantly, celebrate snagging the ball, please follow the chart to see if you actually deserve or have earned the right to claim victory. 
  • Thou SHALL NOT, under ANY circumstances, push a child out of the way to get a foul ball (or home run ball), even if you are the parent or other relative of said child, as long as said child is capable of catching the ball. Sorta like the couple at the Rangers game in 2015…sorta (there are plenty of other examples of this type of stupidity). There appears to be a general consensus that the same goes for the elderly, particularly those who have never caught a ball. If the child is in danger, don’t shove the kid out of the way and try to catch the ball, SHIELD the kid. Take one for the team.
  • Similar to #6: Thou SHALL NOT, under ANY circumstances, steal a ball from the hands of a child, even if you are the parent or other relative of said child, as long as said child is capable of catching the ball. There appears to be a general consensus that the same goes for the elderly, particularly those who have never caught a ball. There are many…too many…examples of jerkiness from the last couple of seasons. The video of a woman at a Texas Rangers game circulates every season. The same can be said for those guys who fight a female for a tossed ball that was meant for her. This guy seems to be getting an earful from the guy next to him.
  • Gleaned from a #foulball search on Twitter during the 2015 season: It is commonly held as “dumb and silly” for “Grown Ass Men” to bring gloves to a game for the sole purpose of adding length to their reach, thus dishonestly and artificially improving their chances of stealing a ball from a child. Seriously. To an overwhelming number of people if you’re over 18 and you bring a glove, you’re not cool.

IF, however, you have small children with you AND you bring a glove as a precaution AND as a way to potentially protect your child from the havoc that can be caused by being hit by a foul ball, then that’s a different matter altogether. In this case, it’s still frowned upon, until mom or dad protects their child. And you get my undying respect…unlike the “super dad” who caught a ball at a Chicago Cubs game in 2016 with his baby strapped to his chest.

Consensus is that if this is the situation, you use yourself as a human shield and say screw the ball.  [Please note that this applies ONLY to REGULAR, AVERAGE fans; it does NOT apply to official Ballhawks (at least not most of them). The Pirates fan in the big glove video is an official ballhawk, therefore he’s exempt from this rule.]

  • Laughing at someone who gets beaned in the head by a foul ball is a normal human response; still, don’t do it. Resist the urge. If they weren’t paying attention, they may have now (probably?) learned their lesson and shouldn’t be embarrassed any more. Children and older fans should have pity taken upon them and immediate assistance sought for them. Note that by law, one does not have legal grounds to sue a team because you failed to pay attention to the game (unless they were helping their child). Besides, have you ever seen the damage one of these foul balls can do? Major holes in press boxes and cause chaos in dug outs (one would assume that baseball players wouldn’t be so scared of a ball; it is, after all, their JOB is to catch balls, but…). Even the current extended netting isn’t safe, as we found out on several occasions during the 2016 season, starting with a ball going through it in Tampa during the first weeks of the season. Sheesh! Speaking of paying attention, do it so your kid doesn’t have to save you from yourself.
  • Baseball is a superstitious sport. Thus, while not mandatory, it is good karma to hand your foul ball to a nearby kid. Home run balls, if caught cleanly, are excluded from this rule of etiquette. If this is your first snag, then you’re exempt. Those who plan to give it to their kids not at the game are also exempt from this rule.
  • Don’t throw the ball back on the field. That’s just not cool. Period. If you really don’t want it seek out a nearby kid (or other fan) who will take it, especially if you get a ball from the opposing team. Try something like this: We can learn a lesson from our kids. NOTE: From our research, this rule apparently no longer applies to foul balls or home runs hit by Mike Trout or Joey Votto or ANYONE else. It seems the general consensus is that these balls should be tossed back onto the field because they are hopped up on PEDs. Regardless, don’t be an ass and do what this woman did!
  • Do not go chasing down a ball in sections where no one is sitting, then think you deserve to be on the big screen celebrating your “victory” and/or get a certificate for “catching” one. That’s just a bit distasteful. Some would say pitiful. You found a ball (an Easter Egg, as true ballhawks call them); you didn’t catch it.
  • If you don’t have the best hand-eye coordination, you probably shouldn’t be sitting in the first few rows at a baseball game, unless you want to look like this fella who just isn’t…well, you see what I’m getting at. He could learn a few things from this young fan who snagged two balls…in a row. Also, if you’re going to use your phone a lot, don’t sit there either.


Honorable Mention

Okay. Yes, the honorable mention was used as an example in #5, but it deserves its own place on this list. Generally, if a ball is tossed into the stands by a bat boy, bat girl, player or umpire it is meant for a kid. Back off.

Don’t forget that we have a foul ball odds calculator available on this site, as well as a bunch of legal information, articles and such for you to read through. Want to improve your odds of catching one? Check them out. They just might help.

Finally, following these rules or blatantly breaking them, could get you on ESPN SportsCente…and not in a good way. Consider this: Would you rather have the world see you as a cool person or as a jerk?

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