Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A Pesky Corner at Fenway Park & Fan Interference

Rays right fielder Randy Arozarena's apparent catch of Red Sox batter JD Martinez' fly ball at Fenway Park turned into a simple foul ball as umpires ruled a fan, without interfering, had touched the ball near Pesky's Pole before Arozarena was able to secure it.

Originally ruled an out by 1B Umpire Jeremie Rehak, Replay Review overturned the call based on video evidence suggesting that the fan had touched the ball, which descended along the fence-line in the right field corner.

Thus, when Red Sox Manager Alex Cora challenged the call, umpires at Replay Review HQ in New York looked at two elements: First, did the fan actually touch the ball, and, second, did this touching constitute spectator interference or not?

With replays suggesting the fan did touch the ball, Replay turned to the question of where the fan touched the ball. Pursuant to the Official Baseball Rules' definition, "Spectator interference occurs when a spectator (or an object thrown by the spectator) hinders a player’s attempt to make a play on a live ball, by going onto the playing field, or reaching out of the stands and over the playing field."

Thus, because replays showed the fan/ball interaction likely occurred above the top of the wall or fully within the stands, the spectator interference criteria were not fulfilled and Crew Chief Dan Iassogna conveyed the proper ruling upon review: foul ball, considered dead once it touched a spectator in dead ball territory.

As for the top of the wall—a neutral zone of sorts which we know can be considered as part of live ball territory or dead ball territory (see the case of a batted fair ball that strikes the top of the wall and bounds back onto the playing field = live ball vs. a similar batted fair ball striking the top of the wall and bounding into the stands = home run)—the Definition of Terms for Foul [and Fair] Territory helps us by delineating how far, exactly, the playing field reaches to: "extended to the fence and perpendicularly upwards."

Accordingly, the fan either remaining fully within the stands or touching the ball on top of the wall has not interfered and, by virtue of touching the ball before Arozarena caught it, has caused the ball to become dead, resulting in the proper call of a foul ball and legal play.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Arozarena's replayed catch vs spectator interference call turns into foul ball (CCS)


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