Amazing 'Fordham Flip' has fans abuzz
Major Leaguers weigh in on Kownacki's vault over catcher
Stop, flip and land. Fordham University's Brian Kownacki used an advanced degree of difficulty to score a key run on Tuesday night, using a gymnastics-style flip to avoid a potentially costly collision at the plate. Kownacki's effort has received an amazing amount of play on the Internet, and he said Saturday that he's been shocked by the media attention surrounding it.
Kownacki, speaking after Fordham's 18-7 loss on Wednesday night, said that he's already been interviewed by ESPN and by several local news channels. He's also preparing to tell his story on CBS on Thursday morning. Kownacki chuckled when asked if he had a gymnastics background, and he said he'd only seen a play like his in the movie "Major League II."
Here's how it happened: Kownacki tried to score from first base on a base hit up the middle combined with a misplay by the outfielder. Kownacki realized that the throw was going to beat him to the plate, though, and elected not to slide. Instead, the sophomore infielder stopped, front-flipped over the catcher and his hands landed right on home plate to score the run.
"At the time, I thought it was just another play," Kownacki said. "I saw the catcher blocking the plate, and if I tried to slide around him, I probably couldn't reach the plate. And I'm not a big guy, so I couldn't barrel him over."
Iona College argued the umpire's interpretation of the play, but the run was counted and Fordham wound up taking a comeback 12-9 win. Kownacki said the play was just unique, but it wasn't something he's ready to take out of his arsenal.
"I guess I could do it again," he said. "But it would have to be the same exact situation."
Though unique and rarely attempted, a play like that would be acceptable at the Major League level. Rule 7.08(b) in the Official MLB Rules says that a runner is out when: He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball.
Hurdling a defensive player would not be consistent with either of those instances.
And while it is extraordinarily unlikely to repeat itself, that didn't stop several Major Leaguers from weighing in on the subject. Jason Heyward, Atlanta's red-hot rookie, said the play reminded him of something he'd done in Little League.
"That was pretty cool," Heyward said. "I did something like that, but I didn't flip over the catcher. I just jumped over the catcher, and it was in Little League."
Larry Dierker, who played 14 years in the big leagues and managed another five, has seen the play attempted, but typically with far less successful results.
"I've seen a few guys try this move," he said. "But they usually end up getting tagged on the cup and land on their back. How would you like to be that catcher?"
Detroit's Brandon Inge, a former catcher, brought his own unique perspective to the play. He said that baserunners never really consider leaping at the plate, and that a catcher could make a baserunner pay by upending him.
"That could've backfired pretty quickly," he said. "If that catcher had just gone, 'Wham!' and hit him up, that would've been ugly."
Having said that, Inge said that kind of contact play is also the last thing you anticipate as a catcher.
"You can't knock someone when they're coming in," he said. "I would think I would shut my eyes. Your instinct is when someone [ran right in] to you [and jumped up], you would shut your eyes. So right before you're about to get hit, you're going to wait until they get right there, and then right at the end, they [jump].
"I don't know, maybe he thought he was going to hit him, and then as he jumped, he kind of just shut his eyes and then it was too late to tag him. That's probably what had to have happened."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.