“Guests are prohibited from throwing balls back onto the field,” reads the Nats Park A-Z Guide. “Violators are subject to ejection or possible arrest.”
You know this. I know this — I wrote about it last season, at great length. And Rob Merritt knows this.
And yet there was Merritt, in the front row of Section 105 on Wednesday afternoon, as Pete Kozma hit the first postseason home run in Nats Park history. Merritt — a D.C.-area native and former baseball star at Riverdale Baptist — snatched the ball out of the air. He raised his arms over his head. And he immediately fired the ball back onto the field.
“As soon as I did it, I looked at my 17-year old son and said they’re gonna throw me out,” Merritt said with a laugh on Thursday afternoon.
Not quite, but close. An usher came down to make sure everyone was okay. Merritt assured him that everyone was just fine. A few moments later, the usher came back and asked to see the ball.
“We don’t have it,” Merritt admitted.
“Let’s go,” the usher said.
“The whole section started booing,” Merritt, a 47-year old who now lives in Alexandria, told me. “It was crazy.”
At the top of the stairs, they were greeted by two stadium employees in suits and a police officer, who reminded Merritt of the Nats Park rules and said they could eject him from the stadium and/or arrest him. But they said they would do neither of those things.
“Go back to your seat, be quiet, we don’t want to hear anything else from you today,” he was told. So he did.
“As I’m walking back down, I must have high-fived everyone on the aisle,” Merritt said. “Everyone was cheering. I sit back down and the beers start coming, everyone’s buying me beers. Some guy way back at the top of the section sent the beer man down. Two separate people were talking about writing e-mails to complain.”
Even better, as Merritt had been marched to the top of the section, an anonymous fan shoved an unused ticket into his mid-section, just in case he got ejected. So much Natitude, everyone. Good job, Section 105.
Merritt has been a Nats fan since the start. This is the first season since their arrival that he didn’t have at least a partial ticket plan, but he still wound up going to about 35 games. And for the record, he doesn’t disagree with the policy against flinging home run balls back onto the field.
“I can understand it,” he said. “They did tell me, it’s for the players’ safety. I cut it loose pretty good. You could hurt somebody. I completely understand it, and I’ve got nothing at all bad to say about them. They handled it perfectly.”
And yes, of course he’s going to Game 4. Has a standing room ticket, though.
“You won’t see me on TV today,” he promised.