A foul baseball ricochets off some poor spectator's vehicle door and the dugouts let out a collective sigh and some cheers. Fans look around and hope that it's not their car that was pegged by a stray baseball. What happens when you own a house next a baseball field? In my opinion, if you mind players and coaches coming into your yard to retrieve foul balls, do not purchase a home next to a ball field. It's really as simple as that.
However, if you love baseball and the occasional thud off the siding does not phase you -- welcome to the neighborhood.
Last Tuesday, I was at the Groton Montachusett Summer League baseball team's extra inning semifinal loss to Leominster at Marshall Park. A player fought off a pitch and hooked it to the property across the street where it made a loud clamoring sound as it struck the gutter of the two-car garage. Seconds later, the homeowner emerged and picked up the baseball.
When the Groton coach trotted across the street to scoop up the ball and toss it back to the umpire, the woman refused to hand it to him without giving him a piece of her mind.
As the game continued to unfold on the field below, the coach was left listening to the disgruntled homeowner for about five minutes until she reluctantly flipped him the ball.
The first base umpire told me of a similar situation at another baseball field, where a homeowner refuses to give back any baseballs that are hit over the fence.
Living next to a baseball field is the same as parking behind the backstop and complaining when your windshield gets smashed by a foul ball -- you assume liability when you park there.
When I was a kid, we played at Steven's Field In Marlboro for a game. The homes around the field have metal cages with hinges to protect the glass. Residents who live around baseball fields that are worried about damage being done to their property should bring any complaints to the town.
Conversely, those who build parks around homes, if they're there at the start of construction, should be courteous to their neighbors and install a screen to attempt to keep the balls restrained to the field.
It is a simple, yet, expensive fix, but it will more than likely appease the park's neighbors.
Clinton's Fuller Field on Worcester Street has a screen installed atop the backstop that hangs over home plate to limit foul balls from escaping into the neighbor's yards. Marshall Park has nothing other than a four-foot fence along the perimeter of the field near the street.
Nobody likes strangers in their yard. I get that.
I have a dog who goes crazy when he sees someone jog by my house. If he saw a stranger run into his yard, I think he might completely lose it. There's that element. But to lecture a baseball coach who kindly apologized for the baseball landing in your yard is ridiculous. Foul balls are random things. It is not like the Leominster batter deliberately tried to peg the woman's house. It's a part of baseball. There are many benefits to living next to a park, such as a fenced-in place for kids and animals to run, but like owning a seacoast home, it can have its drawbacks.