Keith Carmickle of Kingman, Ariz., lost his footing — he was not wearing shoes — and was saved from a 20-foot plunge to a pool deck by his brother, a friend and other fans at Chase Field in Phoenix.
“I stepped up on the table, I missed the ball by two or three feet and went over,” Carmickle said. “I thought, ‘I've lived a good life.’ ”
Aaron Nelos, a friend who made the timely catch, said: “He tried to catch it, I grabbed his legs and his brother grabbed his arms. So when he went over the ledge, we pulled him back. He wasn't going down, I was holding on.”
Carmickle, his brother and Nelson broke into high-fives after they recovered. They spoke with security officers. One told him to be careful, according to the Associated Press.
“I stepped up on the table, I missed the ball by 2 or 3 feet and went over,” he said. “We caught three balls and I told the guys I was going to go for the cycle. Dude, they were really holding onto me.”
Fielder was oblivious. “I didn’t see it,” he said. “We don’t need any of that.”
Last Thursday, Stone, a 39-year-old firefighter, fell to his death as he tried to catch a ball thrown to him by outfielder Josh Hamilton at Texas Rangers Ballpark.
After Stone’s death, Major League Baseball officials said in a statement that they would review the indicent “to ensure a safe environment for our fans.” And that certainly appears more likely and imminent after Monday night’s incident, particularly since it was captured by multiple still and video cameras.
Safety is an issue left to each team, John McHale Jr., baseball’s executive vice president of administration, told the Associated Press last week. For the St. Louis Cardinals, throwing baseballs into the stands is against team policy and players were reminded of that during spring training. In 2009, a fan fell 18 feet at Busch Stadium; his injuries were not serious. A little over a year ago, Tyler Morris, also a firefighter, fell from the second level at Rangers Ballpark while trying to catch a foul ball. He suffered a fractured skull and broken ankle. In May, a Colorado Rockies fan fell 20 feet during a game. He struck his head and later died.
But snagging a foul ball, or a home run, or catching a soft toss from a player is part of the game, part of what makes going to a game fun. “Everybody's been doing that since people started considering those as prized souvenirs,” outfielder Lance Berkman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “At the end of every inning, every player throws the ball in the stands every time, almost without fail.”
Berkman said he will comply with team policy, but added, “It's a part of what makes baseball unique. You get to keep a souvenir foul ball. People put a lot of stock in that. That's why you see fans so desperate to catch them that they'll put themselves in jeopardy to do it. But flipping the ball in the stands is just part of the game.”
Which means that the ultimate responsibility lies with each fan, who must determine whether risking his or her life for a free baseball is worth it.
Photo gallery: Fan saved at Home Run Derby
How to catch a home run ball: By falling into a pool of bikinied babes
H/T Matt McFarland