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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Foul play? Not exactly

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Putnam County Deputy Jon Chadd reacts after fielding a ball from the playing field during Sunday night's Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds game. The ball, which appeared to be foul, was actually in play and resulted in a ground rule double and a tie game.
CINCINNATI -- To borrow from another major sport: They are who you thought they were.

That is, if you were watching ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" telecast and thought the fans shown following a key play in the top of the eighth looked an awful lot like Putnam County Sheriff's Department employees.

Seated in section 111 at Great American Ball Park were Sheriff Steve Fenwick, deputies Jon Chadd, T.J. Smith and Kyle Gibbons and jail officer J.T. Chadd.

The officers had great seats -- so great, in fact, they could reach out and touch the action.

With the Reds clinging to a 6-4 lead, Detroit's Austin Jackson sent a ball down the third base line. The ball appeared to be heading for foul territory, but clipped the line on the way.

With the third base umpire signaling a fair ball, it was too late for the quick reaction of Deputy Chadd, who leaned over the wall from his front-row seat and snatched the sharply hit ball from the playing surface.

Right after the nice piece of fielding, ESPN's cameras zoomed in on the group, with Chadd at the center, surrounded by Smith, Fenwick and Gibbons. The younger Chadd had less screen time, but can be seen in some of the wider shots.

Jon Chadd said from his seat, which hugged the third base line, fielding the ball was almost a reaction. He also did not see the ball graze the chalk of the third base line.

"We were saying, 'Come on, we want a ball,'" Chadd said. "I leaned over and got it and I saw some Tigers fans looking at me. They said, 'Good catch.'"

With cameras panning in on him and umpires, players and coaches looking confused on the field, it began to sink in that the ball may not have been foul.

"I wasn't trying to cause any drama; I thought it was a foul ball," Chadd said.

With third base umpire Tom Hallion signaling a fair ball and the ballboy getting out of the way, Jon Chadd leans over the wall to catch a ball during Sunday's Tigers-Reds game in Cincinnati.
For his part, Fenwick was more confused. He first missed part of the play when the fan in front of him stood up.

Afterward, Chadd already had the ball in tow, and Fenwick was still looking for it on the field, wondering why Reds leftfielder Ryan Ludwick had stopped his pursuit.

"I had no idea what was going on. I thought it was a foul ball," Fenwick said. "I didn't know Jon caught the ball."

"The funniest part was when we saw that Steve was still looking down in the corner (for the ball)," Chadd said.

But when Fenwick saw that his group had just become part of the storyline, he was a little concerned.

"I said, 'What the heck did you do?'" Fenwick said. "After Jon caught it, he was like a fox in the chickenhouse. He was trying to get under his seat."

What Chadd had done was turn a possible triple that likely would have scored three runs into a two-run groundrule double. It was the difference in the Tigers tying the game or taking the lead.

Soon enough it didn't matter, as Detroit scored the eventual game-winning run on a wild pitch.

Mistake or not, the significance of the fan interference call wasn't lost on Chadd, a Cincinnati fan wearing a Big Red Machine shirt.

"The only bad part was I was thinking I was going to get the win," Chadd said with a laugh. "I saved them one run. If they'd have gotten two runs, they'd have had to give me credit for the win."

In the end, he was one of two of the men going home with a souvenir -- Smith caught a batting practice foul ball -- and all five have a great story to tell. The story even includes some fortune telling on the drive over.

"On the way over there, Jon said, 'This is on national TV. I'm going to get us on TV and I'm going to catch a ball,'" Fenwick said.

Done and done.

The full highlight of the game can be seen here. Pay attention at the 1:25 mark.