Baseball Brawls and Battery

August 22, 2019

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

There is no question that professional baseball players have relatively stressful jobs. Their season consists of 162 games between March and October (if your team is doing well). A dizzying number of statistics is kept on virtually every aspect of a player’s game (wOBA, HBP, and DRS, to name a few). Players’ contracts can be a decade long and worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, the average established player is paid about $4.4 million per year. That means some players, we are looking at you, Mike Trout, can get paid a significant amount of money during their career. As a result, each and every swing, pitch, and choice of at bat song is vitally important to a player’s future with their team and with the MLB. With all that stress, tempers are bound to reach a fever pitch. From Trevor Bauer blasting a ball into the empty outfield bleachers to the recent bench-clearing brawl during a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates; players sometimes resort to physical force to deal with their feelings. As Indianapolis criminal defense attorneys, the first question that comes to our minds is: can the players be criminally charged or held civilly liable for these actions?

How Is Battery Defined?

Currently, in Indiana, battery is defined as knowingly or intentionally touching another person in a rude, insolent, or angry manner, and it’s a class B misdemeanor. Battery can be a class A misdemeanor if the touching results in bodily injury, a level 6 felony if the touching results in moderate bodily injury, or a level 5 felony if the touching results in serious bodily injury. (See more on our breakdown of the differences between the levels of bodily injury here). However, in some sports, like football, rude and insolent physical contact is almost the whole point. But players do not walk off the field in handcuffs nor are they served with a civil lawsuit after landing a brutal hit on the quarterback. So where is the line?

Physical Contact on the Field

Generally, the law allows for participants in athletic events to accept some dangers inherent in those activities. Every football player that steps onto the field has to expect that they are going to get tackled, stepped on, or kicked during the course of a regular game. Every soccer player knows there is a likelihood that they will get kicked or knock heads with another player at some point. However, when the strikes exceed the normal scope of the game, the players using that force open themselves up to both criminal and civil liability. For example, if a stray elbow ends up hitting a player’s shoulder in a football dogpile, that would likely be considered a strike in the normal course of the game. However, if a player specifically targets and hits another with their elbow outside of the dogpile and after the play is over, that force becomes more questionable in the eyes of the law. In baseball, and certainly excepting plays at bases, there is generally very little physical contact between the players. When a pitcher purposefully decides to play a little “chin music” or a batter charges the mound, they move themselves further away from the accepted practices of the game. As for the Reds and Pirates, maybe they should consider taking up hockey.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact the Indianapolis criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP today. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their case. Act now and contact us today at (317) 857-0160.