Courtesy WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
A seagull deserves some credit for the Cleveland Indians’ win over the Kansas City Royals last night. The teams were tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning. The Indians had players on first and second, and a flock of gulls, apparently in pursuit of bugs, was positioned in center field. Shin-Soo Choo came up to bat, and his line drive hit the grass in front of the birds, bounced up and struck one of them, and then rolled past center fielder Coco Crisp to the wall. Mark DeRosa, the player on second, scored the winning run. Though momentarily stunned, the bird flew off.
Umpire crew chief Mike Reilly explained to MLB.com that a ball hitting a bird is in play wherever it falls. "If it hits the bird and then comes down foul, it'd be a foul ball. If it hits the bird and stays fair, it'd be a fair ball -- catch off a bird or whatever," he said.
Choo’s take on the event? "I saw in the video that I hit the bird," Choo said. "The bird helped. I'll take it."
It’s not the first time a bird has been struck by a ball during a Major League game. In 1983, Dave Winfield threw a ball that killed a seagull in Toronto. And during an exhibition game in 2001, Randy Johnson threw a pitch for Arizona that killed a dove (click here to see a video).
Pigeons, seagulls, starlings and other birds are drawn to baseball fields because they provide shelter in the rafters and plenty of food, from snack scraps to insects on the field. Some ballparks, like Wrigley Field, have installed special nets to keep birds from roosting in the rafters. One manufacturer, Bird-B-Gone, offers other deterrents including bird spikes, an electric shock system (which it says doesn’t harm the creatures), and aerosol mists that spray methyl anthranilate,“a grape extract that naturally occurs in concord grapes, and is used for flavoring grape soda and candies.” The chemical “irritates the trigeminal nerve and mucous membranes of birds when it enters their eyes, nose or mouth.”
Such solutions can help cut down on the number of birds on the field. But as Crisp points out, they’re there for a reason. "I don't even remember the birds being here at all when I was here," Crisp said. "There were bugs. I guess that's what brought the birds -- the whole nature thing. I'd rather actually have the birds rather that the bugs, as long as they don't get in the way."
Usually, they don’t.
An aside: On June 7, fans at Fenway in Boston witnessed a rare site -- a hawk circled over the crowd (see video below). The last time a hawk was seen in there, in April 2008, it attacked a young girl named Alexa Rodriguez. No one knows if it was the same hawk, but there's been no shortage of jokes that perhaps the bird seen earlier this month was looking for a certain Yankee player with a name similar to that of the unfortunate girl.