With the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles facing off in the postseason for the first time since the 1996 ALCS, a lot of people have been wondering where Jeffrey Maier will be watching this week's ALDS between the two teams.
Maier, of course, was the 12-year-old Yankees fan who famously interfered with Derek Jeter's fly ball in the eighth inning of that Game 1 of the 1996 series, pulling it over Yankee Stadium's right-field wall for a game-tying home run. The Yankees would go on to win the game in 11 innings — and later the series — making the New Jersey youngster a hero in New York and a scourge in Baltimore. Though Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco objected furiously on the field and Baltimore filed a protest of the game, Major League Baseball upheld umpire Richie Garcia's call in the days before there was instant replay for home runs.
While Maier would seem like a perfect candidate to do a media tour or throw out a first pitch before Wednesday's Game 3 in the Bronx, Maier tells the New York Daily News that he has no plans to attend any of the games and that the Yankees have not extended any invitations. Now 28, Maier is married to — gasp! — a Boston Red Sox fan and the couple lives in New Hampshire with their two young sons.
Still, the memory of his famous interference — which vaulted the Yankees to a championship run and ruined a great title shot for the Orioles — will hang over this best-of-five ALDS series. It's a dynamic that Maier not only acknowledges, but also embraces.
From the NYDN:
"I've definitely heard from more people this week than I have in quite some time," Maier told the Daily News on Saturday, one day before the Yankees were to open their 2012 AL division series against the Orioles. "It's fun and I embrace it and try to have fun with it.
"I realize it is an exciting story and one that people still remember and it's a part of baseball history. At this point in my life, I always try to share the story with folks that have a similar passion for the game that I still have to this day."
Maier made headlines in the mid-2000s when he experienced his own baseball success on the field. He set the all-time hits record while playing for Division III Wesleyan University and earned a couple of workouts with major-league teams, including the Yankees. He even played for the Pittsfield Dukes, a summer-league team in New England that was formerly owned by current Orioles GM Dan Duet.
"He loves baseball," Duquette recalled of Maier. "He wrote me an email (wanting to play for the team), and I saw the name. I said, 'Jeffrey Maier?' Then I put two and two together. I called him back and said, 'You're not THE Jeffrey Maier, right?' He said, 'As a matter of fact, I am.'
Though a shot in the big leagues never worked out for Maier, he remains connected to the world of sports. He tells the NYDN that he works in sales for League Apps, an Internet company that "provides mobile applications, websites, online registration and management software for adult recreational sports leagues."
As for the young shortstop that Maier helped to one of his first moments of October glory? Well, let's just say that Derek Jeter isn't as entranced with Maier's unique place in baseball history as some of us.
"We would've beat 'em anyway," Jeter told reporters with a grin on Saturday.