DANNY ONEIL

How to Help: A fan’s guide for when a Mariners OF may land in your lap

May 20, 2018, 11:34 PM
Mariners OF Mitch Haniger could have used some help with a catch of a foul ball Saturday. (AP)...
Mariners OF Mitch Haniger could have used some help with a catch of a foul ball Saturday. (AP)
(AP)

Dear Seattle:

There are increasing signs that your Mariners team will be playing meaningful baseball into this summer and beyond, which is absolutely great considering that there aren’t many better places to spend a warm evening than Safeco Field.

Table Setter: The Mariners are following Jean Segura’s lead now

But this opportunity also entails certain responsibilities if Seattle is going to enjoy the advantage that’s supposed to come with home field. And given a couple of things that happened this weekend, I thought we all could use a reminder that it’s about doing more than just root, root, rooting for the hometown.

First, outfielder Mitch Haniger was given all the room in the world to knock himself unconscious after catching a foul ball on Saturday night. That was followed by what could have been a catastrophic case of fan interference in the 11th inning of Sunday’s game.

This is meant to be constructive. It’s not a criticism of our city’s baseball acumen or its etiquette. This isn’t about pointing fingers and getting indignant so much as getting better and becoming more aware, because it’s going to take more than a village to end the longest postseason drought in baseball. We’re going to need the whole city.

To that end, was it too much to ask that someone cushion Haniger’s landing after he leaped to catch that foul ball on Saturday night?

Now, I want to give Green Hat Guy credit here. He clearly pulled back from any attempt at the ball, and I’m going to choose to believe that’s because he didn’t want to interfere with Haniger’s attempt at the catch as opposed to fearing a collision. But once Haniger made the catch, there was nothing preventing Green Hat Guy – or anyone else for that matter — from catching Haniger. In fact, it’s actually encouraged that you not let your soon-to-be-All-Star fall directly onto the exposed concrete.

Now, if that’s a member of the opposing team, the situation is a little bit different. No, you’re not supposed to just let him conk his head on the concrete. But you’re not supposed to just let him catch the ball, either. Not when he comes into the stands.

That’s an important distinction so let’s make it clear: You can’t reach beyond the rail, onto the field, to make the catch. Not only will you get tossed out of the game, the opposing team will get the out because of fan interference. But if the player reaches into the stands – or falls into them entirely – you have as much right to the ball as that player does, which means that if an opposing player reaches into the stands and comes out with the ball, the home fans aren’t exactly doing everything they can.

But remember what I said about reaching onto the field? Don’t do it. Seriously. Not for a foul ball. Not for a ball that’s hit down the line. And definitely not if Dee Gordon is involved as he was on the final play of Sunday’s game when Seattle dodged a bullet. Watch the video of Jean Segura’s game-winning hit, paying special attention to Black T-Shirt Guy:

Now, I don’t know if the guy ended up grabbing the ball, and it wouldn’t have mattered if he did. Gordon was on second, having previously swiped that bag, and any interference would have resulted in a ground rule double that would plated Gordon. Had Gordon been on first, though, he could’ve been put on third on a play he very well might have scored on.

C’mon Seattle. Don’t be that guy. If the Mariners are going to overcome the loss of Robinson Cano for 80 games, they’re going to need all the help they can get. So let’s make sure to give it to them, whether it’s catching Haniger in the crowd or keeping all of our grubby little mitts off the playing field.

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How to Help: A fan’s guide for when a Mariners OF may land in your lap