Fans may not help decide the outcome of baseball games, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate when they too flash the leather.
Part of what makes baseball great is how involved spectators can be during the game, and every so often they enhance the overall experience for the entire audience at the ballpark on any given night.
Many of those in attendance show up wearing gloves in hopes of catching a home run off the bat of their favorite player or hauling in a foul ball that might happen to land near their seat. They aren’t usually looking to make highlight-worthy grabs, but sometimes fans make one of the more spectacular plays you’ll see that evening.
The group of nominees for the marveled with their creativity as they reeled in mementos from the contest they paid to see. Little did each of the nominees know, their presence at the park — and ability to execute — could net them the honor for best grab by a viewer this season.
The Esurance MLB Awards as part of an industry-wide balloting process that includes five groups, each of which accounts for 20 percent of the overall vote: media, front-office personnel, retired MLB players, fans at our site and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) members.
The MLB Awards are an all-inclusive program, encompassing the top players and performances from both the American League and National League from Opening Day through the end of the postseason.
Hall of Famers, general managers, broadcast-booth legends and you will be among those helping to pick this year’s Best Major Leaguer, in addition to the winners in the following categories: Best Pitcher, Best Rookie, Best Defensive Player, Best Manager, Best Executive, Best Personality, Best Postseason Moment and Best Postseason Performer.
One winner in each category will also be recognized for the year’s Best Offensive Play, Best Defensive Play, Best Single-Game Performance, Best Fan Catch, Best Call: TV/Radio and Best Player-Fan Interaction.
In addition to the aforementioned categories, a panel of MLB experts will identify and recognize the season’s Best Moments and Best Trending Topics.
Perhaps the most unlikely of fan catches made this season, one lucky Dodgers fan was sitting in the first row of the bleachers at Dodger Stadium on May 19 vs. the Marlins when rookie phenom Cody Bellinger drove a rocket home run right at her. With only her hat in hand, she reached out in an attempt to snag the deep fly. Not immediately aware of where the ball had landed, she looked around to see where it completed its fall only to find it sitting in her cap.
A Phillies fan was chatting with his friend when he saw Freddy Galvis’ foul ball flying toward his section in the second deck behind home plate. Putting his body on the line, the spectator dove over the seats to his right and reached out to make a ridiculous barehanded snag that would have made Galvis proud. A baseball player himself, this fan showed off impressive reaction time as he hauled in his souvenir.
It’s common practice for a fan who catches a home run from the opposing team to throw it back onto the field, but this member of the Pirates’ faithful had other ideas. The fan — fittingly wearing the jersey of Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole — reached over the seat in front of him to snare the Cardinals’ Jedd Gyorko’s home run and fired a laser out of PNC Park and into the Allegheny River below. The impressive heave left the Cards’ broadcasters calling for Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak to give the man a tryout.
In quite impressive fashion, a hungry Padres fan managed to seize a foul ball down the left-field line at Petco Park with his right hand and hold onto his barbecue dinner in his left without it spilling. The impeccable display of hand-eye coordination and concentration not only netted him the memento from the game, but also a kiss from his significant other. A lovely play all around.
The final nominee of the group features a full-extension blast off the bat of Yankees rookie sensation Aaron Judge, culminated by a two-handed full-extension reception by a courageous Mariners fan. The ball was scorched off Judge’s bat at 118.6 mph, per , and yet somehow the spectator, sitting in the third-to-last row of Safeco Field, reached up and grabbed hold of the ball with his bare hands before falling back into his seat. Instantly bouncing back up to celebrate, he held the ball high in the air for everyone to see. The grab left even CC Sabathia, looking on from the dugout, in awe.
The winners will be announced on the MLB Esurance Awards Show, which will air live on MLB Network and our site on Friday, Nov. 17. Some of the winners who accepted their trophies in person or live on the MLB Awards winners’ program last year included Francisco Lindor, David Ortiz, Mike Trout, Anthony Rizzo and Corey Seager, so there’s star power everywhere you turn.
Oliver Macklin is a reporter for our site based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @OMacklinMLB.