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Should players be allowed to climb over the fence and camp out under a home run?

Welcome to the first installment of Dumb Baseball Questions. You've been warned.

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Over at Hardball Talk, Craig Calcaterra shared this video, in which a college player escapes gravity and overcomes obstacles:

'Tis a fine catch. But is it an out? The NCAA rules are sorta vague:

If a fielder falls over or through the fence after making a catch within the field of play, the batter shall be retired and the ball is dead

Did he make the catch within the field of play? Probably. His feet were over the field, and that should be good enough. The MLB rules are even more explicit:

A fielder, in order to make a catch on a foul ball nearing a dugout or other out-of-play area (such as the stands), must have one or both feet on or over the playing surface (including the lip of the dugout) and neither foot on the ground inside the dugout or in any other out-of-play area.

Emphasis added. The lawyers among you have already noticed the term "foul ball" up there, but as far as I can tell, this standard is used for home runs, too. As long as a toe is over the field of play, the catch is legal.

However, I've been storing up a lot of dumb baseball questions over the years, waiting for the right moment to irritate you with them. This is one of those dumb baseball questions:

Would the game of baseball be better if the outfielder could climb the fence and rob a home run over the fence?

Mookie Betts can probably scale the Green Monster using his mind, and we'll see that soon enough, but for an example, use Fenway's right field instead. It's a short, hoppable wall. You might remember it from this:

Pretend instead that Ortiz hit a moonshot. A high, arcing blast that allowed Torii Hunter to camp under it. He could have gone back, felt for the wall, climbed over it and made the catch easily. It would not have been allowed. Our dumb baseball question of the day asks, "Why in the heck not?"

Pros to changing the rule

It would be something that came up about .0004% of the time. We could go an entire season or two without a player even attempting it. Then, when the stars align and a ball is hit just right in the perfect spot at the appropriate ballpark: magic. Pure, unadulterated magic.

It would happen infrequently enough that baseball would essentially be adding something as rare as a perfect game to the schedule every couple years, another moment that would be talked about, shared, written about and gushed over. You know what kids like? Pretending to rob home runs in back yards. In this scenario, they can climb the fence and screw up Mrs. McGargen's radishes, and it would be even cooler. That's how to get kids in the game.

Home runs would suddenly have an extra will-it-or-won't-it, an uh-oh that wasn't there before. And here we are, focusing on the successful attempts. What about the unsuccessful attempts? What about the players climbing to the top of the fence, and then falling into the abyss as a ball sails over their head? What about the players climbing the fence and disappearing, only to realize the ball is 58 rows up?

The failures are the real prize here. The successes are just the Cracker Jack.

Scaling the fence would highlight athleticism like no other play in baseball. Imagine a no-doubt homer that sent an outfielder streaking for the fence, just in case he could scale it in time to get in position. It would be rare enough to be a treat, not a rule change that wholly changed every single game. This isn't eight fielders or expanding the foul lines. Just a simple exhortation to catch the ball that is hit, wherever it goes.

Cons to changing the rule

Well, for starters, people would get hurt on those attempts. Outfielders would dive onto bullpen carts and fall into moats. It's all fun and games until somebody pokes their Trout out.

Another consideration is this would affect teams unequally. Fenway would have more opportunities. Camden Yards might have a couple if the outfielder is already playing deep and feeling froggy. Any place with an outfield bullpen and eight-foot wall could be in play, in theory, like Yankee Stadium or The Ballpark at Arlington. But there are parks that wouldn't get to share in the fun. Really, the only one that would have it happen with some frequency might be Fenway. Doesn't seem fair.

Also, another argument is that this is stupid. Reaching over the fence is accepted and desirable. Climbing over the fence is an abomination, something we should save for arena baseball. There's something pure about a home run leaving the field of play, and we don't need no fancypants loophole to rob a player of something he's rightfully earned.

While the failures would be funny, would there even be enough successful attempts to make it worth our while? The risk/reward seems skewed in the favor of risk. There are just too many variables that would need to happen -- path of the ball, positioning of the outfielder, height of the fence, athleticism and derring-do of the outfielder -- that would make it more like guessing a coin flip 40 times in a row than a repeatable baseball play.


Well, I'm in favor of players waltzing into the stands and dugouts, too. See the ball, catch the ball. That's my motto.

As is, this is probably like asking "If a squirrel runs across the outfield fence, should the batting team get an extra out in the inning?" It's not likely to come up, and even if it does, the game sure seems to be getting along fine without it.

Still, I have a dream, a beautiful dream, in my mind, and it involves a player being off the field of play and making an out as an opposing hitter throws down his helmet in frustration. Baseball doesn't need help making more great homer-robbing highlights.

Every little bit of excitement helps, though. You know. For kids.

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