On his way to Nationals Park for Monday’s series opener between the Nationals and Orioles, 28-year-old La Plata native Brent Latham joked with his wife and two friends — all Orioles fans — that if he caught a home run by a Nationals player, he would throw it back.
Latham got his chance in the sixth inning after Anthony Rendon hit a game-tying, two-run homer over the out-of-own-scoreboard in right center field.
“It actually hit behind me and I just grabbed it off the bounce,” said Latham, who was sitting in the first row of Section 142. “I guess adrenaline kind of took over and I just threw it. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? I’ve never caught a batting practice ball, a foul ball, nothing. I guess it was my ‘Rookie of the Year’ moment.”
Unlike Henry Rowengartner’s toss in the movie, Latham’s throw didn’t quite make it to the catcher. He said there was immediate backlash from some of the fans in his section.
“I caught a lot of flak, which I was kind of surprised about,” Latham said. “I guess it’s because I’m an away fan. It was weird because I had Nats fans behind me yelling for security to come get me, and that just seemed uncalled for.”
After Rendon’s home run, an usher came down to check that everyone was okay. A half inning later, Latham said another Nationals employee came down and informed him of the team’s policy against fans throwing balls back onto the field at Nationals Park.
“They said, ‘We know it’s a tradition everywhere else, but you can’t do it here and I can throw you out,’” Latham said. “I wasn’t trying to be a tough guy. I said, ‘If you want to throw me out, I’ll leave.’ I didn’t agree with it, but I’d follow the rules. They let me stay and the Nats fan next to me thought it was really cool. He was laughing his [butt] off. I told him that if I caught another one, I’d give it to his kid.”
Latham and his friends left with the game tied in the ninth inning to start the trip back to La Plata; he had to be up early for work.
“On our way out, a couple of Nats fans were like, ‘Hey, don’t listen to everyone [calling for security]; it is what it is’,” said Latham, who goes to a few games at Camden Yards every year and makes an effort to see the Orioles when they play at Nationals Park. “I just came to watch baseball. I wasn’t hooting and hollering, or anything like that.”
And how will he react the next time he catches a home run?
“What’s done is done,” Latham said. “If I ever catch another one, I’d either keep it if it was hit by an Orioles player or give it to a child. At that moment, I was just angry that Rendon tied the game. I don’t even remember what I said.”
Perhaps Latham can make it up to Nationals fans by casting a few votes for Rendon in the All-Star Game Final Vote.
“All in all, I do hope he gets voted on the team,” Latham said. “He’s probably the best second baseman in the National League.”
Thanks to @jfleshman.