Originally created 06/17/04

Boy who lost foul ball to souvenir-hunting adult gets windfall



ARLINGTON, Texas -- A 4-year-old boy who lost a foul ball to a not-so-grown-up adult is getting a windfall worthy of a game-winning home run hitter.

A man sitting behind Nick O'Brien at a Texas Rangers baseball game Sunday knocked the boy against the seats as he dived to get a foul ball. Fans started chanting "Give him the ball!" but the man wouldn't give it up.

"I couldn't believe someone would do something like that to a 4-year-old boy," said Nick's mother, Edie O'Brien.

O'Brien said she swatted the man with a cardboard fan and called him a jerk, among other names. "I said, 'You trampled a 4-year-old boy to get this ball,' and he said, 'Oh, well,"' she told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, adding that the man seemed proud he got the ball.

Video shows Nick was standing up as the man dived across the boy's seat to grab the ball at Nick's feet. The man's leg strikes the boy, and the boy is jostled a second time as the man stands up with the ball and appears to exchange words with the mother.

Nick wasn't hurt, but fan outrage mushroomed, and even Rangers announcer Tom Grieve voiced his disapproval on TV, calling the man "the biggest jerk in this park." The man and a woman with him left before the game was over.

Meanwhile, the Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals quickly made sure Nick got souvenirs of his own - two bats and four baseballs, including one signed by Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, a former Ranger.

Cardinals outfielder Reggie Sanders came out between innings to give Nick a bat and ball. "In my heart, I thought I should do something," said Sanders. "It's all about the kids."

The man who took the foul ball has not responded publicly to the criticism, but The Dallas Morning News identified him as Matt Starr, a married, 28-year-old landscaper and former youth minister.

Starr is "not the bad guy he's been made out to be," said Rick DuBose, senior pastor of the Sachse Assembly of God Church. "He probably got a little aggressive and did something he regrets. But that's not Matt. He's a good kid, a good young man."

On "Good Morning America," host Charles Gibson gave the O'Briens more souvenirs Wednesday - this time from the New York Mets. The family got tickets to Wednesday night's game against the Cleveland Indians.

"Wow," Nick responded.