When Jeff Francouer scaled the wall last night in Seattle to rob Dustin Ackley of a potential, lead-extending, solo homerun in the bottom of the third, it was anointed the new Web Gem of the year.
But, one thing sticks out when you watch the replay.
Francouer does not appear to actually make a clean catch of the ball, but instead reels it in off of a slight deflection by the gloved woman sitting in the first row.
It is hard to tell for sure when watching the highlight, yet something about the ball’s flight doesn’t seem quite right.
Jeff Sullivan (@LookoutLanding), a Mariners blogger for the website lookoutlanding.com tweeted a screen shot of Francouer’s catch.
The picture shows a clear change in direction caused by tipping the glove of the fan in the first row.
According to rule 3.16 of the 2011 Official Baseball Rule Book, “No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope, or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk.”
Basically, any time a player reaches into “fan territory” to catch a ball, the fan owns the right to make his own play on the ball. There’s no such thing as interference when the ball is about to land out of play.
A slight deflecting of the ball by a fan into a players glove is the same as a player catching a ball after it ricochets off of an empty seat; both are homeruns.
Therefore, Jeff Francouer’s catch should have been a Dustin Ackley homerun instead, as per the rules.
Umpires own the right to review any homerun call to look for fan interference as well as fair/foul calls. This play was not reviewed.