Orioles' Hyun Soo Kim talks about the beer can tosser from the wild card game. (Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore Sun video)
TORONTO — The Orioles were coincidentally in Toronto on Wednesday when the fan who threw a beer can onto the field, narrowly missing left fielder Hyun Soo Kim, during last year's American League wild-card loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre was given his sentence in an Ontario provincial court.
And while few knew of the news going into the day, the punishment that fan, Ken Pagan, received for a criminal mischief conviction forced the Orioles to revisit the same concern for player safety that was discussed at the end of the team's season last year.
Pagan, who pleaded guilty to the crime last month, was given a conditional discharge of 12 months of probation. He will be banned from all major league baseball games for a year, during which time he can't be within 500 feet of Rogers Centre, where the Blue Jays play their home games, according to the Toronto Star.
He will also have to perform 200 hours of community service, 100 of which he has already served, the newspaper reported.
During the seventh inning of last year's win-or-go-home wild-card game, Kim retreated to catch a fly ball hit by B.J. Upton when a full beer can was thrown from the first deck of stands just above and beyond left-field fence. Kim made the catch as the can fell just to his left.
The Orioles were enraged, center fielder Adam Jones yelled into the stands in defense of his teammate and manager Buck Showalter considered taking his team off the field.
Kim said before Wednesday night's game that he received an apology letter from Pagan and has accepted his apology.
"Yes, I got the letter and I read it and I definitely accept his apology," Kim said through interpreter Derrick Chung. "People make mistakes, so I'm sure it's not going to happen again. I appreciate it."
Since the incident, Pagan has lost his job as a news copy editor, experiences ridicule in his daily life and is now working part-time as a janitor and delivering pizzas — his lawyer argued, according to the Star report — which went into the judge's ruling to grant Pagan probation.
"Just the fact that he got punished for what he did, I think that was enough," Kim said. "I think I am sure that will make people think twice before doing something like that again."
Jones, who advocated immediately after the incident for the can thrower to be charged, questioned Tuesday whether the punishment — especially the length of the ban on attending games — was harsh enough, but said he stands with his teammate.
"I am firm believer of harsh punishment, especially for people who do that," Jones said. "I know he's lost his job, 200 hours of community service is a lot. I don't know the extents of the ban. … a year? That might not be enough. I've always been a firm believer of fining people monetarily because at the end of the day that's where it hurts people, but as long as Kim is over it, I stick with my teammate and I'm gonna have to be a big man and be over it, too."
Time has allowed the matter to calm down, and the Orioles looked at Wednesday as an opportunity to put it behind them and move on.
"That's gotta be really tough on a real fan," Showalter said. "We got a letter of apology to [Kim], to the organization and everything. It's forgiven, it's behind us and we've moved on. We all make mistakes. None of us like to have our lives judged by our worst decision. He seemed very [sorry], all the proper things have taken place and we've moved on. They did what they thought was right and we'll leave it right there."
A similar incident in Toronto occurred during the 2013 regular season, when Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth was nearly pelted with a water bottle after lunging into the stands to make a catch in foul ground. Fans at Rogers Centre also threw items onto the field in mass during the Blue Jays' decisive Game 5 win over the Texas Rangers in the 2015 AL Division Series, prompting an 18-minute delay.
Major League Baseball issued a statement to The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday night regarding the incident and its impact on player safety, saying that the league largely leaves these situations in the hands of clubs to handle.
"MLB has monitored this situation since it occurred," the statement read. "Clubs have their own codes of conduct and protocols in these situations. We would encourage clubs to eject fans who engage in such conduct and to send ballpark security and local law enforcement to address any situation that might involve unlawful conduct. We prioritize the safety of our on-field personnel and the fans who visit our ballparks, and we hope that deterrents will prevent such episodes in the future."
Even though Jones was ready to put the incident in the past, he offered a reminder that this instance could have ended with serious injury.
"You put the guy's life in danger," Jones added. "You put Kim's life in danger. Some people are going look at it like he didn't put his life in danger, he just threw a can, but I don't think many people have had a can of beer thrown at them with their backs turned at full speed. When I first heard the punishment, I didn't fully understand it. There are different laws obviously with us being in Canada. But you know, Kim is happy, Kim can move on. I think that's the most important thing with this whole thing is that Kim can move on."