Foul Ball Etiquette and Rules: Foul Balls Deserve Respect

In light of the recent Pirates v Cubs foul ball incident on 4/20/2015 during which a woman turned her back on the game as she worked her way to her seat behind the netting at PNC just before getting nailed by a foul ball to the back of the head, I felt it important to review some of the common-sense rules baseball fans should follow while at a game.

In just two seasons of play, I’ve been devoted 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”, some aren’t. Ins spite of the cheekiness of some points, these are some of the best ways to enhance the fan experience and minimize the craziness that sometimes comes with the foul ball frenzy.


In no particular order, they are:

  1. While uproariously hilarious, it is bad form to punch, hit, shove or otherwise battle a player going for a foul or otherwise interfere with a play in foul territory. Especially if he’s on the team you’re rooting for. Who can forget Steve Bartman? Everyone should have learned a lesson from this poor soul anyway.
  2. Human shields are NOT acceptable, nor is ducking out of the way. Placing your significant other 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.
  3. 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 and here….

  4. Buy MLB Allstar Game Tickets

  5. Thou SHALT 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 this Rangers game…sorta. 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.
  6. Similarly to #4: Thou SHALT 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. Check out these prime examples of jerkiness from the last couple of seasons: Bad Man and Evil Woman. HOWEVER, this is both HILARIOUS and acceptable.
  7. Gleaned from a #foulball search on Twitter last 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. If you’re over 18 and you bring a glove, it’s 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. 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).NewSiteBackGround The Pirates fan in the big glove video is an official ballhawk, therefore he’s exempt from this rule.]
  8. Laughing at someone get beaned in the head by a foul ball is a normal human response; still, don’t do it. 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 they failed to pay attention to the game (unless they were helping their child). Besides, have you ever seen the damage one of these puppies 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…). Sheesh!
  9. Baseball is a superstitious sport. That understood, 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. We can learn a valuable lesson from this young man.
  10. 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 Alex Rodriguez. 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 a douchebag and do what this woman did!
  11. 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” or get a certificate for “catching” one. That’s just a bit distasteful. Some would say pitiful.

Baseball Express

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.

Follow on Twitter @FoulBallz to continue the conversation.