Let’s begin this with another look at Kyle Schwarber’s walkoff home run Tuesday night [VIDEO].
The man who got the ball out of the basket, immediately known as “Mai Tai Guy” from the name on the back of his jersey, was subject to an incredible amount of hostility on the internet Wednesday for allegedly “stealing” the baseball from a couple of kids.
Frankly, I found this disturbing for a number of reasons. Some of you have made judgments about him without knowing him, the situation, or the context, from watching those few seconds of video.
So I’m writing this article to tell you a little bit about who “Mai Tai Guy” is. His name is Chris Sorley, and he’s a fellow bleacher season-ticket holder and friend of mine. He is a gentle, kind and generous soul who’d do just about anything for anyone.
I asked Chris to write down some things about his life as a Cubs fan and details about exactly what happened Tuesday night. Here are his own words, and then I’ll have some concluding thoughts of my own. I ask only that you read these with an open mind.
I was about seven years old when I went to Wrigley for the first time. My mother always encouraged me to play sports, and that day back in September 1988 is something I’ll never forget. Just the sights, sounds and smells of the ballpark lit up my senses! We sat in the 200’s along the first-base side that day.
I wasn’t a big baseball fan back in those days. Michael Jordan was just starting to become something and every kid in my class just wanted to “be like Mike.”
I had always heard about the bleachers when I was younger and couldn’t wait to get out there when I was 21 so I could have a beer legally and join the fun. One day a friend of mine had bleacher tickets to a game he couldn’t attend so I pounced at the opportunity. Come to find out when we get in line on Waveland, the Cubs were playing a straight doubleheader that day, even better, two games!
Fast forward to 2011. I was asked to join a group of friends, one of whom just had his name called for season tickets. I knew season ticket holders got early entry and I had always sat in right field because I could never beat the season-ticket holders back then to get a front row seat in left.
I have five game home runs, here’s a description of all of them.
The first home run I got was on a Sunday night against the Cardinals in 2013. Darwin Barney hit a homer in the basket that I got my glove on and kind of trapped it, until my buddy next to me ripped it out of my glove. He did give me the ball later that evening once we got back home. Here’s the video.
Then I caught one hit by Gordon Beckham, on the fly, during a Cubs/White Sox game a year later. I learned the hard way about throwback balls, i threw the real one back on the field. Here’s video of that one.
My next home run ball was during the Tigers series in 2015. In the first inning Ian Kinsler hits a laser to me that again landed in the basket. This time I’m prepared and scoop the ball out of the basket and I have my throwback in my left pocket. I have that one in a safe spot. Here’s the video.
Home run number four was on a Friday afternoon vs. the Cardinals off the bat of Willson Contreras. It went three rows back, hit an older gentleman in the hand and went into the basket again for me to scoop up. And here’s video of that one.
Home run number five was Schwarber’s walkoff.
As far as game home runs vs. batting practice, gamers are considered fair game for all. You don’t punch or push people but there is going to be contact regardless if you are in the area. If I catch a BP homer on the fly, I honestly keep those. If it falls and rolls or I have to chase it down, if there’s a child nearby I’ll scoop it up and give it to a kid.
On Tuesday, kids were down by me all game, both during batting practice and in between innings. We encourage them to come down as long as they follow the rules and give security enough room to work. Before the game Chad Noble threw one child a ball that he muffed and it went back on the field. A couple minutes later he threw up another and another muff by the same child. That one landed at my feet and I promptly picked it up and placed it in the child’s glove. Lester Strode came by a little later and tossed some baseballs up and the other kids with gloves made better plays than the first youngster. One gentleman came down with a younger girl, maybe five years old and the father had her on his shoulders. The little girl wanted to be in the front row and kept pointing to the front row so I gladly granted her simple request and Lester Strode promptly threw one I caught and gave to her dad.
During the game Tuesday, I had been up and down like usual for drinks and food all game. Every time I came back the children knew they could stand in my spot and would always move for me so I can sit back down. I kept telling one of the boys to do his homework and take it easy and listen to his mother, who was there with him. She kept telling me to tell him he needs to brush his teeth too so I kept adding that in when appropriate. It’s my thing to get a hot dog if the game goes to extras, so after the ninth I got my 10th inning dog and came back, saw the kids up front and just sat down behind them. The whole thing happened so quickly but I got a decent line on Schwarber’s ball off the bat, it’s coming right toward us! The ball hit the basket itself and I reached out for it. The kids had little chance and if they did, one of them risked falling in the basket.
To see the vitriol that Chris took on Twitter and other dark corners of the internet really disturbed me. People were making snap judgments by viewing 15 seconds of video. As you can see from all the videos above, catching a game home run is something that happens in a flash. No one who does that has time to think, “Man, I need to give that to a kid.” Chris is a good guy, a loyal Cubs fan and as I noted above, he’d do anything for anyone. I hope Chris’ story helps you understand a bit about how these things are approached, and that it gives you a bit more context than those brief moments of video. I have often seen Chris give baseballs to kids. I’ve done the same, on the few occasions I’ve gotten a BP ball. Those always light up kids’ faces.
Lastly, I ask that you keep your comments here civil. The modern internet seems to me to have contributed to a decided lack of civility in society. I doubt I’m going to change all that just by writing one article about baseball, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the attempt.