When Drew Barrymore’s character ran onto the field in Fever Pitch, she did so as a protest to stop Jimmy Fallon’s from selling his Red Sox season tickets. When a baseball fan ran onto Bradenton’s McKechnie Field during a Tampa Bay Rays versus Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training game on Saturday, his protest wasn’t over a theme in a romantic comedy.
The Rays returned from Cuba earlier this week after a historic visit when they faced off against the Cuban National Baseball team. It was the first trip by an MLB team to the island nation since 1993 and was made possible by new diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.
Police have not released the fan’s name yet, but according to Bradenton police Lt. John Affolter, he was of Cuban descent. Members of the Rays said he threw a beer and soda into their dugout. The fan’s protest resulted in his arrest and being charged with trespassing, causing affray, and assault (for that beer can he threw at the Rays) according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“It was a Cuba thing,” Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi said. “I don’t speak Spanish too well. … I think it was a Cuban person, frustrated about the politics of it, I guess. He threw two beer cans. Nobody got hit. Nobody did anything. Maybe some guys got wet. It was a Cuba thing.”
Unlike Barrymore, who hung herself from the outfield wall at Fenway Park, this fan simply jumped over a low fence near the dugout in the seventh, ran in front of the Rays’ dugout, shouted in Spanish, and then proceeded to throw the beer and soda at the Tampa Bay team.
And just like Barrymore who juked her way between security guards to make it to Fallon, Rays’ infielder and outfielder Taylor Motter said players ducked and weaved in the dugout.
“I think he just missed a couple of the guys,” INF/OF Taylor Motter said. “I know it hit the back wall and exploded. .. We just tried to duck and weave as best we could.”
Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo was a little more involved in the protest, as he held the protester in a bear hug until police arrived.
“I just saw him throwing stuff to the dugout and then I realized his age so I was just holding him and I was telling him, I realized he speaks Spanish, telling him to relax,” Montoyo said. “I didn’t hear what he was yelling, I just saw the two things and then I was holding him. He smelled like beer or rum or something. … To me it was an old person drunk so I felt bad for him.”
Some officers even reported seeing the same man shouting at the Rays’ bus when it arrived before the game.
Motter realizes that this situation could have gotten even more out of hand and that security should have intervened before it even got to the point it did.
“It just scares me,” he said. “If it was or wasn’t related to Cuba or it was or wasn’t related to MLB, I still feel like security should have been there a little more knowing that we’re on the map a little bit. But they did a good job coming to get him as quickly as possible.”