Monday, August 12, 2002

Couch potatoes celebrated at minor league baseball game

The Associated Press

        EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Attending a baseball game carries the risk of getting hit by a foul ball. But, from their seats in couches just inside the outfield fences, some fans attending a minor league risked getting hit by fair balls.

        At a Friday night game, Evansville Otters fans taking part in a team promotion relaxed in about 30 couches just inside the outfield fence, taking in a view better than those with front-row seats.

        The couch potatoes signed waivers saying they would not sue if injured, and the couches were cordoned off by yellow tape.

        The Otters imposed a few special rules for the game against the Dubois County Dragons. Any ball that rolled into the couch area would be counted as an automatic double. Outfielders were permitted to go through or behind the tape to catch fly balls.

        Managers from both teams discussed the ground rules with umpires before the game, agreeing that a batter would be called out automatically if a fan interfered with an outfielder trying to catch a ball.

        In addition to signing waivers, fans in the couches also were told to remain seated during play. They were barred from leaving the couch area for any reason until the end of an inning.

        Deciding watch the game from the couches was a no-brainer for season ticket holder Michael Davis.

        “It's a hoot,” Davis said. “When I heard they were doing this, I said 'We've gotta go down there.”'

        According to the Otters, the couch promotion was the first of its kind in baseball history.

        Although fans like Davis were enthusiastic about the promotion, safety issues were a concern for outfielders for the Dragons, who lost 8-2.

        “From a player's standpoint there's a risk of injury,” Adam Olow said.

        O.J. Jarza, the Otters' center fielder, said he was also concerned about a player or a fan getting injured.

        No baseballs reached the couches during Friday's game. On Saturday night, the Otters planned another promotion: a hot dog-eating contest.


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