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The most amazing feat pulled off at a Major League Baseball game Monday night wasn't by a player, it was by a fan who defied astronomical odds to catch not one, but two home run balls.
What's more, the two gopher balls caught by Caleb Lloyd, 20, came in successive at-bats in the fourth inning, and the first was a rare round-tripper off the bat of a pitcher, Mike Leake, who pitched his team to a 4-1 win over the visiting Atlanta Braves.
"The first one I actually barehanded, " Lloyd, who was sitting in the left field bleachers, told Cincinnati.com. "It hit my hand and I didn't expect to actually catch it ... it hurt really bad, so I'm like, 'I'm not doing it again.' "But the second one bounced behind me and then it bounced into my lap. My buddy's like, 'You caught a second one!' I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is crazy.'"
Lloyd didn't keep either souvenir. He gave Leake his home-run ball back because it was the his first home run in the majors. The other he gave to the pal who "dragged me to the game."
It's been done before, but statisticians differ on the odds. Obviously, only fans in the outfield stands in fair territory have a shot, and the closer they are to the wall, the better their chances. And not every game features even a single home run, though typically two or three are hit.
Alexander Martinez, of Hartford, Conn., caught a pair of home run balls on Aug. 5, 2007, at Yankee Stadium, prompting one expert to put the odds at 1 in 196,000,000. He arrived at the figure by calculating the odds of catching one homer at 1 in 14,000, and then squaring that figure.
Houston Astros fan Shaun Dean caught a pair of home runs at Minute Maid Park in 2006, including a grand slam struck by Lance Berkman. But put an asterisk by his feat, because that game lasted an epic 18 innings.
At the time, Brad Efron, chairman of Stanford University's department of statistics, told ESPN.com that the odds of catching a pair of homers are really not as astronomical as one might think. He placed it at between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 5,000.
"Of the 43,000 people there, there are actually only a couple thousand people in the ballpark who can catch a home run ball," Efron said. "So the odds are not as astronomical."