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Stories from Right Field, Ep. 2: The Tanner Mathis Warm-up Ball Massacre

A few weekends ago, I was using the #StoriesfromRF hashtag to share shenanigans I've seen over the years. There's only so much story you can tell in 140 characters, so I've decided to make a multi-part series to tell the history of Right Field. Here we go...

Jeff Gray

One of the many unique traditions in Right Field is the warm-up ball toss. In case you're one of those Diamond Club socialites and are not familiar, the warm-up ball gets thrown to the center fielder at the top of each inning and is returned when the first batter approaches the plate. While in the students' possession, the ball becomes covered in random DG's phone numbers, sharp one-liners, would-you-rathers, and dicks. Lots and lots of dicks. I'm fairly certain a good portion of our student section has that dick-drawing disease Jonah Hill had in the movie Superbad.

Most Right Field patrons are aware of this tradition, but some get caught up in the social scene and forget to pay attention at the top of each inning. With approximately 32 home games per season with nine innings each, that computes to at least 288 volleys into the student section per season. You gotta think eventually someone is going to get hit, right?

Now, let's talk physics for a second. The center fielder is about 175 feet away from the Right Field terrace when he launches the ball. The students do not have the luxury of having a glove to catch it with (although I've seen some catch it in their solo cups or hats -- bravo to them). Now, of course, he's only lobbing the ball -- let's say his trajectory vector is a nice 64 degrees from horizontal. According to my rudimentary calculations, the ball would top out at a height of 88 feet and travel at 56 mph. Yeah, go ahead and snag that ball bare-handed. It's gonna sting. Just imagine what it would do to something that isn't as structurally sound as your hand...

Baseball Kinematic

It was 2010. I can't remember which series. It was hot and Right Field was packed. I was standing on the very top level of the terrace. Tanner Mathis, clad in digi-camo from head to toe, finished his warm-ups and tossed the dick-laden ball towards the northern-most portion of the terrace, or the "Sigma Nu" section as I call it. The ball was coming in my direction. I got in position to catch it, but it was apparent it was going to land just shy of my grasp.

As it made it's descent, I heard someone shout, "YO BRO LOOK OUT BRO." I watched in horror as a young male student sat on the stairs about five feet in front of me -- his back to the field -- turn to see what all the commotion was about. BAM... the ball smoked him in the face. He immediately hit the deck. And there I was, watching that shit go down in slow motion.

Blood was everywhere. I thought he was dead.

The guy immediately grabbed his face. "I'm ok, I'm ok. Didn't hurt." He removed his hands from his face to reveal a badly bloodied nose and a cut on his lip. The ball hit him square in the nostrils. I was like, "Holy shit dude, you took it right in the face. Are you ok?" "Yeah. I'm ok," he said as he smiled at me, revealing two front teeth missing.

He ran past me, headed to the rest room to nurse his injuries and his pride. The blood had gotten all over several coolers, the stairs, and a bag of sunflower seeds. It looked like a murder scene. Fairly certain I saw a few people faint. Moments later, a couple of his friends asked me to help look through the pea-rocks for his missing teeth. I obliged because I'm a nice guy. We didn't find them.

Tanner Mathis never even knew anything had happened. As far as the victim, I never saw him again. I'm sure he recovered just fine. But, let this be a lesson: approximately every 22 minutes, a baseball will be flying through the air at a random trajectory into the Right Field terrace. Maybe it misses you. Maybe it doesn't. Keep your heads on a swivel, my friends.