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Jake McCarthy’s Catch Is A Dying Breed

Jake McCarthy goes into the seats for a catch
Bally Sports Arizona

Protective netting has slowly, belatedly stretched its way along the foul lines at ballparks across MLB, but it hasn't done so in a consistent way. At a White Sox game, for example, the netting now reaches all the way to the foul poles, while in Tampa it only goes a few sections beyond the dugouts.

The overall on-field effect, though, has been a change in how fielders have to navigate foul flies on the border between player and spectator. It's not uncommon to see guys in competition with this new obstacle as they go for an out, trying to snag a ball before it touches net and kills the play. And it makes for a new kind of highlight when the player catches a fly at speed and then bounces off the net to avoid a fall.

What the net prevents, however, is something like the famed Derek Jeter play, where a zealous defender just crashes into the seats and sends hot dogs and beer flying in all directions. If that Jeter moment had happened at the present-day Yankee Stadium, I think he would have been snared by the very edge of the ballpark's netting.

The protection is only going to get more comprehensive as time goes on, and for good reason. (Minor league stadiums have just recently been ordered to extend their netting down their foul lines by the start of 2025.) But in MLB there remain some gaps where athletes can still end up behind the dividing line. One of those is in San Diego, where the Padres were facing the Diamondbacks on Tuesday afternoon.

This was a fun game! The home team got out to a 5-1 lead, saw it shrink down to 5-4 in the sixth, and then gave it up completely as the D-Backs strung together four runs worth of small-ball (including an old-school double steal) in the top of the eighth. In the bottom half, though, a two-out double and a walk set up a threat with Austin Nola at the plate. He took three straight balls and then a strike, and on a fastball dead center he sent a fairly soft, looping fly ball out to foul territory in right. Jake McCarthy, Arizona's promising second-year outfielder, ran to his left to go for the catch. And he made it! But he didn't have the space to stop on his own. McCarthy's momentum carried him over a short wall with no netting and into the front row, where an unlikely friend in a Machado jersey helped him get up and get back to where he belonged.

"The wall came up pretty quick,” McCarthy said after the game. “The catch itself I don’t think was super difficult. But I didn’t realize how close I was to the wall. Obviously, I flipped over. Luckily, I didn’t get hurt or anything. The concrete didn’t feel great, but I feel fine.”

As notes, McCarthy has some experience handling sudden contact. As a high schooler in Scranton, he was an all-state running back who racked up 90 touchdowns and over 6,000 yards on his career. “He’s fearless. He brings a football mentality,” his manager, Torey Lovullo said.

You can see on the video just how small the window is where a player can cross over without encountering a net. This catch now qualifies as a very rare sight! And fittingly, on a day where the unlikely had already happened once, the Diamondbacks held on to steal a win from the Padres, 8-6.

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