PITTSBURGH - There have been a couple of times when I've come close to writing about the epidemic of players tossing baseballs into the stands.
I rejected the idea, though, because it just seemed too grumpy and middle-aged and things-aren't the-way-they-used-to-be.
Even for me.
I could never see a good reason why every random baseball has to wind up in the stands.
You see players throw away the last out of every inning, and the ball that infielders use to warm up every inning.
That's in addition to the foul balls that don't quite make the stands.
It's really come into favor in the last decade or so.
Joe L. Brown used to be the Pirates' general manager. He was a brilliant baseball man, and a guy who kept a close watch on expenses.
If he saw a player flipping a ball into the stands, he'd tell the player to knock it off. He had two reasons: 1. It can be dangerous to throw a ball into stands and 2. The team, not the player, paid for baseballs.
Brown had a weekly radio show where he answered letters from fans. Someone wrote in and asked why foul balls that went near the stands weren't given to fans who couldn't quite reach them.
Brown's response was that coming away from a major league game with a used baseball was a special thrill, and that would be diminished if fans were just handed baseballs instead of catching them.
He didn't mention it, but baseballs can be reused for batting practice until they're falling apart.
Now the issue of throwing baseballs to fans is tied to tragedy.
Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton tossed a baseball in the direction of the fans. The man who reached for it tumbled over a railing, fell 20 feet and died.
That's caused baseball to rethink the idea of throwing baseballs into the stands. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has asked his players to be gentle: Throw underhand and don't try to put anything in the upper tiers.
What happened in Texas was a terrible, but rare, accident.
But there's still a lesson: Why take the risk?
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org