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Twins fan has hand in first MLB instant-replay reversal

ST. PETERSBURG — Tim Nielson didn't even get to keep the souvenir from his 30th birthday trip. Perhaps he'll get an asterisk in the Baseball Encyclopedia.

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Or he'll settle for the distinction of being involved in the first instant-replay reversal in a major-league baseball game, awarding Rays slugger Carlos Pena a three-run home run in the fourth inning.

Pena's drive over the yellow-painted barrier above the wall in right-centerfield was initially ruled a double and the play halted on fan interference, indicating umpires thought Nielson had touched the ball in play. Replays confirmed that Nielson made contact — or vice versa — well above the barrier, and crew chief Gerry Davis emerged from the third-base dugout after a delay of 4:10 to award Pena his 31st homer of the season.

"It was clearly above the yellow line," Nielson asserted.

Instant replay has been used to settle fair/foul and home-run calls three times since being introduced midseason, twice at Tropicana Field. A home run by Alex Rodriguez over the leftfield foul pole was confirmed Sept. 3, as was a Hunter Pence double Sept. 9 in Houston.

Nielson, a Denver native and Twins fan, wife Amy, brother-in-law Eric Ulferts, sister-in-law Gretchen and 7-month-old Titus were in town for one day, resplendent in Twins blue and red, to watch one game as an early birthday junket. They had moved down a few rows to the empty seats 9, 10, 11, 12 early in the game. While Nielson made a play for the ball, the rest of the party blanketed Titus, with Gretchen Ulferts thinking, "Somebody better catch that ball."

"I'm sitting here and I even play baseball a lot, and it was like the longest fly ball coming straight to me that I'm camped under — and my glove is in the car," Nielson said. "So the ball's coming straight at me, and I know I can't reach over the fence, but I still want to make a play at the ball, and instead of cupping it with two hands, I just used one and … it was right on top of me."

Twins fan has hand in first MLB instant-replay reversal 09/19/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 22, 2008 9:58am]
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