ST. PETERSBURG - Avisail Garcia swung and missed at a Lucas Giolito changeup in the bottom of the second inning on Saturday night. The outfielder lost grip of his bat, sending it high above the protective netting at Tropicana Field.
The bat soared over foul ground, clearing the netting and helicoptering into section 119 on the left side of the infield. Robert Lyons, of Chicago, spotted the bat flying toward his seat and knew immediately that he wouldn’t be able to make the catch.
“It flew over the net and was moving so fast,” Lyons said. “There was no way I was going to stand up and grab it.”
Lyons sid that his first instinct was to turn his back to the bat and protect his girlfriend, Maria Kokkinias.
“I moved over, blocked her, and then it hit me on my back,” he said.
The bat left a brown stain of pine tar on Lyons’ blue and white collared shirt before it fell to the aisle.
Lyons was unhurt and remained at the game with his family and friends. The Chicago native came to St. Petersburg for the three-game set between the White Sox and the Rays. He will fly home to Chicago on Sunday night.
Alex Rowe attended Saturday’s game after playing a baseball tournament in Sanford. The 14-year-old followed the bat from his own seats in section 119. He immediately stood up as the bat flew through the air, planning to track it down.
“If I made the wrong move the bat would have come up and hit me in my nose,” Rowe said. “If I made the right move, I get the bat, and I ended up doing that.”
After the bat settled on the stairway, Rowe ran up from his seat to grab it. Although Lyons was the victim of the airborne bat, he offered it to the young fan.
Rowe, a diehard baseball fan from Coral Springs, said that he goes to dozens of major league games every year and collects sports memorabilia. He has a tennis racket from Serena Williams, a hockey stick from Sydney Crosby and a signed baseball from Adrian Beltre.
“I collect a lot, so getting the bat was kind of a big thing for me," Rowe said.
The incident comes just one day after a fan in section 129, also on the left side of the field, was struck by a foul ball and required medical attention.