Phoenix Keith Carmickle and his friends had already caught three balls during Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby Monday night and wanted more.
He nearly got a lot more: a headfirst fall to a pool deck about 20 feet below.
Chasing a home run hit by Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder, Carmickle was saved from a long fall when his brother and a friend grabbed him around the legs and arms, then pulled him back as he dangled above the deck area behind the pool in right field at Chase Field.
His near miss came the same day as the memorial service for Shannon Stone, a 39-year-old fan who died last Thursday while trying to catch a ball thrown into the stands at a Texas Rangers home game.
“I thought: I’ve lived a good life,” Carmickle said about dangling.
Seated in a small section of seats above the right-field fence, Carmickle, of Kingman, and his group had already grabbed home-run balls by Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez and were looking to add another to their collection when Fielder came up in the second round of the derby.
Trying to snare a towering shot by Fielder, Carmickle stepped up onto a metal table about 18 inches wide and reached down to catch the ball. It hit a wall several feet below Carmickle. His momentum carried him forward, headfirst over a short railing at the back of the table.
Carmickle was headed for a hard landing when his friend, Aaron Nelson, grabbed his legs and his brother, Kraig, grabbed him around the arms. Carmickle dangled briefly over a deck where a couple of cameras were positioned behind Chase Field’s pool before being pulled back up to his seat as the crowd above and below gasped.
“He tried to catch it, I grabbed his legs, and his brother grabbed his arms,” said Nelson, who, along with Kraig Carmickle, is from Chandler. “So when he went over the ledge, we pulled him back. He wasn’t going down, I was holding on.”
The Carmickles and Nelson gathered themselves after the near fall and let out a few shouts before breaking into high-fives. They relived the moment with a few of the fans around them, then again as they looked at photos taken by an Arizona Republic photographer, who had shots from behind of Carmickle on the table, then falling.
The trio spoke with security personnel a few minutes later and were allowed to remain in the game.
“I stepped up on the table, I missed the ball by two or three feet and went over,” he said. “We caught three balls and I told the guys I was going to go for the cycle. Dude, they were really holding onto me.”