TORONTO – The man alleged by police to have hurled a beer can at a Baltimore outfielder during Tuesday’s dramatic playoff between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Orioles has come forward.
“I contacted Toronto police earlier this evening, around 7 p.m., and identified myself as the person in the photo,” Ken Pagan wrote in an email to The Canadian Press, adding he “cannot say much else.”
Toronto police said they were investigating and on Wednesday evening released a photo of the man they alleged was responsible, urging him to turn himself in.
The Toronto Sun, which said Pagan was an employee of Postmedia and formerly of Sun Media, reported earlier Wednesday night it had contacted Pagan and that he suggested the police may not have it right, saying he was “drinking out of a cup.”
The newspaper, owned by Postmedia, also reported he suggested that pictures posted on Twitter after the can was tossed indicate he had a cup in his hand.
In a lengthy statement issued by the Blue Jays earlier in the day, the baseball team apologized to the Orioles and Major League Baseball for what it called an “embarrassing incident.”
“On the heels of one of the most competitive and exhilarating baseball games in our club’s history, it is extremely unfortunate that the irresponsible actions of one individual would detract from the game on the field,” the team said in a lengthy statement. “We’re co-operating with the authorities to identify the individual involved, and the individual responsible is not welcome back to the stadium.”
The incident — which triggered a frenzy online and in the stands — saw the beer can narrowly miss Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim as he made a catch during the seventh inning.
In the confusion that followed, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said he and Kim were taunted with racial slurs.
The Blue Jays said the safety of fans, staff, players and visiting teams was “paramount” and promised to bring in “heightened” security measures and alcohol rules for future games, though it did not provide details.
“We hope the focus will remain on the exciting play on the field, and that our fans will express their passionate support for the Blue Jays while demonstrating a level of respect and responsibility that has made Rogers Centre one of the best atmospheres for families and fans of baseball,” it said.
Major League Baseball has spoken with the Toronto Blue Jays about banning cans from the seats at Rogers Centre.
“I don’t think there is another ballpark where beer is served in cans,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “We’ve worked really hard to make sure … that alcohol is served and consumed in a responsible way in all of our ballparks. I think that one of the reasons last night attracted so much attention is it’s an unusual — rare may be a better word — event in one of our ballparks.”
The entire episode was swiftly condemned on multiple fronts and sparked a flurry of crowd-sourced sleuthing to find the tall-can tosser.
Toronto Mayor John Tory called the culprit a “loon-ball” on local radio but noted that the person was just one among about 50,000 fans at the game played at the Rogers Centre.
“For somebody to be as irresponsible as to throw anything from the stands is just, we know, not acceptable conduct,” he later told reporters at city hall on Wednesday. “It is not typical of what Blue Jays fans do, it is not typical of what Torontonians do.”
A number of baseball fans also took to Twitter to express their outrage, and distance themselves from what many called “inexcusable” behaviour.
“Go Jays!!! I hope the moron who threw the beer can is enjoying being the most pathetic person in Canada today,” tweeted one person.
“Tossing beer cans and yelling racial slurs is abhorrent in any instance. The vast majority of Jays/sports fans/Canadians aren’t like that,” tweeted another.
Some also suggested the root of the problem was irresponsible drinking at the wild-card game, which Toronto won 5-2 to advance to the American League Division Series against Texas.
“Do something about the alcohol in the stadiums,” tweeted one man. “The drinks ruin the fun for everyone.”
Some fans even broke down broadcast footage from the game online, attempting to identify the culprit, while the Toronto Sun newspaper put up a $1,000 reward to “catch the beer tosser.”
Toronto police said they were investigating the toss by the “unsportsmanlike fan.”
“We have clear images of the person responsible,” said Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu. “We take this matter very seriously and will continue to investigate until the person is apprehended.”
In a release that accompanied a photo of the man police identified as the suspect, police said investigators are strongly encouraging the man to seek legal advice and turn himself in.
Meanwhile, Major League Baseball said it too was “extremely disappointed.”
“Any fan who resorts to dangerous actions like last night’s — in Toronto or elsewhere — will be subject to arrest,” it said. “We ask all fans to alert stadium operations employees if they witness any form of unacceptable behaviour from fellow spectators.”
Blue Jays spokesman Erik Grosman said the person who threw the beer can was not ejected from the stadium because the individual took off before police had a chance to make an arrest.
Kim, the target of the toss, said such an incident should never happen.
“It’s the first time for me and hopefully the last,” he said through an interpreter.
Jones, who said he heard racial slurs after the can was thrown, called the incident “pathetic.”
“You don’t do that. Yell, cuss or scream,” Jones said. “To put us in harm’s way, when all we’re doing is focusing on the game, that’s not part of baseball. Not part of any sport.”
It’s not the first time, however, that rowdy behaviour from some Jays fans has caused a stir.
Blue Jays fans tossed bottles and debris on the field during Game 5 of last year’s AL Division Series against the Rangers, upset by the call that let Rougned Odor score from third after catcher Russell Martin’s throw back to the mound deflected off Shin Soo Choo’s bat. A baby was narrowly missed.
Following that episode, a decision was made to serve beer in plastic cups in the upper tier of the stadium for certain games.
A Blue Jays fan also threw a drink at Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth during a game at Rogers Centre in May 2013.
— With files from the Associated Press