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Sunday, July 13, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 6/20/2004

A really foul play

Matt Starr, husband, landscaper, and former youth minister may be kind, upright, and reliable. But he's also "the meanest jerk" at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, a description Texas Rangers announcer Tom Grieve bestowed on him, belated apologies aside.

That's because Mr. Starr trampled a 4-year-old boy, Nick O'Brien, to get his hands on a foul ball that landed at the boy's feet. Blame it on momentary fan madness or adult depravity, but it gets worse.

He wouldn't give the kid the ball even after fans began chanting "give him the ball, give him the ball." Instead, Mr. Starr, who'd been sitting behind Nick, and a female companion left the ball park before the game ended.

A video of the event showed Mr. Starr diving across the standing boy's seat to get the ball, knocking the child against the seat in the process. He jostled the boy a second time as he stood up with the ball.

The Rangers and the visiting St. Louis Cardinals gave the boy two bats and four baseballs, one signed by Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. Reggie Sanders delivered his team's gifts between innings. Baseball "is all about the kids," he said, something Mr. Starr clearly missed in the moment.

That wasn't the end of it. The O'Briens were guests on Good Morning America three days later, and the New York Mets offered them tickets to their game against the Indians.

Baseball bully Starr may not go down in sports history with the infamy that still attaches to Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman. Last year, in Game Six of the National League Championship Series, Mr. Bartman deflected a foul ball away from Cubs outfielder Moises Alou, an act believed to have cost the Cubs a World Series berth.

But he should still expect ignominy, though a Texas pastor says he's not as bad as he seems, that he is "a good kid, a good young man" who now says he will give Nick the baseball and the family tickets to Rangers games. And, oh, yes, he's sorry.

Baseball fans are notorious for their zeal in diving for foul balls. Lucky for this guy the poor kid wasn't seriously hurt.



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