Austin Meadows popped a foul ball up over the protective netting along the third base dugout last Saturday against the Rangers, and a young fan in a Chris Archer throwback jersey made a tremendous grab on one hop to secure the souvenir.
Joseph Hartman, 12, skipped up to his family’s seats and passed the ball off to his little sister. Mary Grace Hartman, 7, broke out a big smile and hugged her older brother. The entire event was caught on camera by the Rays broadcast on Fox Sports Florida.
The Rays shared the short video across social media, and it caught fire on Facebook. The 41-second video reached over 36 million users by Friday afternoon. It racked up over 14 million views and 400,000 likes on Facebook. By all metrics, the post was the most popular ever for the Rays.
The Rays invited the Hartman family back to Tropicana Field for the Friday night game against the Yankees. Joseph and Mary Grace, along with their brother, William, their mother, Karen, and their father, Rob, made the trip from their home in Temple Terrace to attend the game.
“I was embarrassed,” Joseph said on Friday of the video going viral. He was not embarrassed about the catch or giving the ball to his sister. Rather, the young fan was embarrassed about thousands of people watching him skip down the row of seats to his family.
The Hartman family took in pregame batting practice from field level on Friday night, and the Rays provided the three Hartman children with customized jerseys. Joseph selected 39 for his jersey number in honor of Kevin Kiermaier, one of his favorite Rays. Prior to Friday’s game, the Hartman family met Meadows and Kiermaier on the field
During the game, the Hartman family, including 13 extended family members, took in the game action from a suite and a pair of extra seats in Tropicana Field. Relatives from Oregon and New York were already coming to Tampa Bay for a vacation, so the Hartman’s used the Rays game to kick off their family gathering.