A Japanese schoolboy caught a home run ball as well as the wrath of many netizens after Japan faced Cuba in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but Tetsuto Yamada wasn’t about to let the bullying slide.
During the bottom of the fourth inning on Tuesday, the Yakult Swallows second-baseman hit the ball to left-field towards the stands.
But the young fan reached out using his glove to catch the ball before it went over the fence.
It’s every baseball fan’s dream to catch a ball at a game, but the boy’s move cost Japan a home run, which was instead ruled as a double due to spectator interference — also known as Maboroshi No Home Run (Phantom Home Run) in Japanese, according to RocketNews24.
The fan was cautioned by a security guard, and was told to stay in his seat for the remainder of the game.
Japan ended up winning the game 11-6 despite the home run gaffe.
That didn’t stop the boy from getting hit with insults online, where people called him a “war criminal” or a “stupid brat” who doesn’t “deserve to live.”
The insults were further intensified when a close-up shot of the boy smiling as he held the ball in his hand started making the rounds on the internet.
But Yamada defended the unidentified boy in a statement on Thursday, saying:
“I don’t mind at all. I hope that you don’t turn you back on baseball and come back with your glove to cheer us on. I think you were on the edge of something else that day; the edge of becoming a professional baseball player in the future. I hope you continue to work hard at that so one day we can meet and look back at this moment we shared together fondly. I will work hard too so I can hit home runs perfectly.“
Japanese netizens praised Yamada for being “too kind”, “a saint“, and a “stand-up guy”.
“I like Yamada even more now. I hope he knocks one out of the park next time too!” one user wrote.
“Yamada is cool. I hope that kid does go on to become a professional player,” another commented.
Yamada’s batting average holds at over .300 with 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in the last two seasons, Japan Times reported.
“That’s part of baseball,” he said of the home run blunder. “I wasn’t sure if it was gone. But I’d like to lift more weights and hit the ball further going forward.”