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Jeffrey (Jeff) Maier (born September 24, 1984) is an American baseball fan best known for an incident he was involved in as a twelve-year old at a baseball game, when he deflected a batted ball in-play into the stands during Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. His action altered the course of Game 1,[1] as the resulting home run allowed the Yankees to tie the score. They would go on to win the game and the series, four games to one.

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Incident

On October 9, 1996, the Yankees trailed the Orioles 4–3 in the bottom of the eighth inning when shortstop Derek Jeter hit a deep fly ball to right field. Right fielder Tony Tarasco moved near the fence and appeared "to draw a bead on the ball" [2] when the then-12-year-old Maier reached over the fence separating the stands and the field of play 9 feet below and deflected the ball into the stands. While baseball fans are permitted to catch (and keep) balls hit into the stands, if "a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and touches a live ball" [3] spectator interference is to be called.

Right field umpire Rich Garcia immediately ruled the play a home run, tying the game at 4–4, despite the protest of Tarasco and Orioles manager Davey Johnson. The Yankees would win the game in the eleventh inning on Bernie Williams' walk-off home run. The Orioles maintained their protest of the Maier play after the conclusion of the game, but their protest was denied by American League President Gene Budig because judgment calls cannot be protested. After viewing the replay, Garcia admitted that there was spectator interference, though he maintained the ball was not catchable. [4] Garcia's contention that the ball was not catchable has been disputed. [5] Had Garcia ruled it spectator interference, he would have then used his own judgment to determine what the most likely outcome of the play would be--either an out or awarding Jeter a given number of bases.

The Yankees went on to win the series against Baltimore, four games to one, as well as the World Series against the Atlanta Braves. As a result of the play, a railing was added to the top of the right field wall at Yankee Stadium to prevent fans from reaching over it.

Meanwhile, in New York, Maier became a minor celebrity. The New York Daily News allowed him to sit behind the Yankee dugout later in the postseason. The boy appeared on national talk shows, including The Late Show with David Letterman, and was even awarded the key to New York City by mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Baseball career

Maier grew up in Old Tappan, New Jersey and played baseball there at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan.[6] He then played college ball at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he was a first-team all-NESCAC selection. He also played briefly for the Pittsfield Dukes in the New England Collegiate Baseball League in the summer of 2005.

In 2006, he became Wesleyan's career hits leader and was featured on ESPN. The New York Times reported that Maier hoped for a career in baseball. That spring, the Washington Post and MLB.com reported that, ironically, the Baltimore Orioles might draft him--though the team denied ever having an interest in him. [7] Maier was also invited to a tryout for a number of prospects, held by the New York Yankees. However, he was not selected by any team in the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft. Maier worked in the summer of 2006 as a scout in the Cape Cod League for ESPN's Peter Gammons and also as an instructor for Frozen Ropes Baseball Training Center. Maier has since become a special consultant for the New Haven County Cutters. [8] He has had several internships, including with the YES Network, and had several interviews (according to The New York Times) with MLB teams at baseball's winter meetings in search of a front-office job.

He recently served as an extra and assisted with baseball skills training for the actors in ESPN's miniseries about the 1977 Yankees, The Bronx is Burning.[9]

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