4/9/2019: Marcell Ozuna’s spectacular(ly misjudged) wall climb

With the Cardinals already leading the Dodgers 4-0 on April 9, 2019, former Gold Glove Award winner Marcell Ozuna saw Kike Hernandez’s fly ball soar high into the air at Busch Stadium. Without hesitation, the Cardinals left fielder raced to the wall, leaped up onto the chain-link fencing near the visitors’ bullpen, and turned to find the ball for a highlight-reel catch.

Unfortunately, Hernandez’s fly ball hadn’t reached the wall. In fact, it didn’t even get to the warning track. In a desperate bid to recover, Ozuna tried to push off the wall, but his cleat got caught on the fence and he landed face-first on the warning track as the ball bounced over him for a ground-rule double.

“‘A’ for effort,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said,[1] helpfully adding that “gravity came into play,” and “we can’t dispute Newton’s laws.”[2]

Ozuna’s overzealous attempt to rob Hernandez of a home run was inspired by a similar play two years prior, when Ozuna earned bragging rights against his former teammate. On that occasion, Ozuna, then playing with the Marlins, climbed the outfield wall to steal a home run from Hernandez.

“It looked kind of the same,” Ozuna said. “I thought it was gone.”[3]

Here’s a look at that 2017 grab:

Since stealing that homer, Ozuna had taken advantage of every opportunity to remind Hernandez of the play. After listening to Ozuna gloat for the past two years, Hernandez had no mercy for the Cardinals left fielder after watching him fall face-first into the Busch Stadium dirt.

“Off the bat I knew I hit it well, but running down to first base, I started running hard, running down the line,” Hernandez said. “I see him climb up and I’m like, ‘I thought I hit it too high,’ and it brought me to a flashback to Miami two years ago. Then he faceplanted and I’m really glad it happened to him, because he deserves it. That’s my boy. I played with him, but he still reminds me every year of the play he made two years ago. It would’ve been better if it hit off his head when he fell down, but it’s still one of my favorite doubles of my career.”[4]

The Cardinals’ athletic training staff checked on Ozuna before he remained in the game for the remainder of the Cardinals’ 4-0 victory. Once it was clear that only Ozuna’s pride had been injured on the play, players in both dugouts were free to laugh. Former Cardinals reliever Joe Kelly, now with the Dodgers, and teammate Kenley Jansen were caught laughing on camera even as the next batter, Chris Taylor, was at the plate, and Jansen pulled his shirt up over his mouth to hide his smile.

“I was laughing too,” Ozuna said. “I was too aggressive.”[5]

“He’s going to be on the bloopers for the next 10 years,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I actually thought it was a homer off the bat and it kind of hung up there. Apparently, he did too.”[6]

Incredibly, Ozuna had made a similar play – minus the pratfall – less than a year earlier on June 21, 2018. On that occasion, he climbed the wall attempting to catch a fly ball off the bat of Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, only to turn around and see the ball hit the base of the wall just a few feet to his left, allowing Aguilar to reach second base with a two-run double.

Take a look:

“I thought the ball was going out, and I went up to rob it, and I looked up and it was below me,” Ozuna said. “I saw the ball carrying, carrying, carrying, and then I got turned around … at the end it was a bad read.”[7]

Ozuna has not won any Gold Glove awards since 2017.

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[1] Rick Hummel, “Cards strong-arm LA,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 10, 2019.

[2] Mark Saxon, “Marcell Ozuna’s now-famous gaffe came just as he started to feel better about his defense,” The Athletic, https://theathletic.com/917718/2019/04/10/marcell-ozunas-now-famous-gaffe-came-just-as-he-started-to-feel-better-about-his-defense/.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Cards strong-arm LA,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 10, 2019.

[4] Matthew Moreno, “Dodgers React To Cardinals’ Marcell Ozuna Climbing Wall & Failing To Make Catch On Kiké Hernandez Double,” Dodger Blue, https://dodgerblue.com/dodgers-react-to-cardinals-marcell-ozuna-climbing-wall-failing-to-make-catch-on-kike-hernandez-double/2019/04/10/.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Cards strong-arm LA,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 10, 2019.

[6] Jorge Castillo, “Dodgers can’t cash in any of 13 baserunners,” Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2019.

[7] Adrian Garro, “Marcell Ozuna climbed the wall pursuing a fly ball – but the ball didn’t make it that far,” Cut4 by MLB.com, https://www.mlb.com/cut4/marcell-ozuna-climbs-wall-chasing-fly-ball-but-it-falls-well-short-c282315820.