If you regularly peruse the World Wide Web, there is a good chance you have seen the "Ball girl Makes Incredible Catch" video making the rounds over the past couple of days. In the 39-second clip, a ball girl at Fresno's Chukchansi Park climbs the left-field wall to make an amazing leaping catch.
Well, at least some of what appears in that video actually happened.
This much is true: on April 17, the Fresno Grizzlies hosted the Tacoma Rainiers in an evening contest at Chukchansi Park. And at some point in the ballgame, Tacoma's Brent Johnson came to the plate against Victor Santos and lofted a deep fly ball down the left-field line.
What didn't happen (at least not in real life) is the catch itself. The ball girl was a stunt woman, working on behalf of an advertising production agency that was filming a Gatorade ad. However, this particular campaign was scrapped before the commercial could make it to the airwaves. The ad was leaked online instead, where it quickly became a viral video sensation.
As a result, Grizzlies Director of Media Relations Paul Kennedy has been a very busy man.
"I've been getting calls from all over the country and our website has gotten a lot more hits over the past couple of days," he said. "It's funny, because there's really no explanation for why something like this catches fire. I think what helped the video find an audience is that it's really hard to tell that it was a commercial. With the logos removed and no voiceovers, it really does look like unedited game footage."
The distinction between fantasy and reality is indeed a tricky one to make, largely due to the clip's attention to detail. The first 12 seconds is actual game footage from the April 17 contest, and Grizzlies announcer Doug Greenwald played a part in the ruse by later recording an authentic-sounding play-by-play call of the ball girl's acrobatics.
"Our facility provided the size and setting that was perfect for their needs," said Kennedy. "The production crew got their stuff set up in the morning, shot the game that evening, then worked through the night on the choreographed stunt."
While Kennedy estimates that eight or nine players and coaches were used as extras during the overnight shoot, it was Jake Wald who was featured most prominently. Wald, who is actually an infielder, stars in the clip as a somewhat humiliated left fielder who passively watches the ball girl's heroics from several feet away. He is currently a member of the Connecticut Defenders and regular readers of this site might also recognize him as one half of the mock-country duo Stache and Hawk.
For the Grizzlies, the question is how to cash in on their fleeting moment as YouTube sensations.
"It's tough, because we've been on the road and we're not in a position to immediately capitalize on this," said Kennedy. "But this helps get our team name, logo, and uniforms out there, and will only help our reputation grow. The bottom line is that there's no such thing as bad exposure."
And despite the unexpected popularity of the ball girl clip, don't expect to see any copycat attempts at Chukchansi Park anytime soon.
"Like most Minor League parks, we have the bullpen located down the left-field foul line," said Kennedy. "If a ball is hit in that direction, it's just going to be a relief pitcher chasing after it."