Kole Calhoun tried to use his head while on the bases during the D-backs' 3-2 loss to the Rockies Monday night at Chase Field, but that turned out to be against the rules.
The D-backs outfielder was on first base with one out in the fifth inning when Ketel Marte lifted a fly ball to shallow left field.
Raimel Tapia easily caught the ball and then threw to first to try to double off Calhoun.
Calhoun was able to get back to first and Tapia’s throw was in the dirt and skipped by first baseman Daniel Murphy. Calhoun took off for second, not realizing that catcher Tony Wolters was alertly backing up the play and had already snagged the ball.
“I saw it kick off Murphy’s glove, and just instincts tell you to go,” Calhoun said. “So, as I’m running, I kind of look back to see what had happened behind me and wasn’t expecting Wolters to be there with the ball. Right when that happened, I knew I was done. Now you’re in a pickle.”
Wolters started running toward Calhoun, who continued to second while looking back toward his pursuer. Wolters threw to second and, judging by television replays, it appeared Calhoun leaned his head just a bit into the path of the ball.
“I don’t know, man,” Calhoun said. “Like I said, it’s literally coming right at me, I have a helmet on. You just take your chances. Maybe I just stay right there, it kicks off [my head], goes into left field and now we’ve got a guy on third. I don’t know. It didn’t seem right to duck and get out of the way and let him catch it and tag me out. The ball is coming right at me and I’m going to let it hit me and take my chances.”
The ball hit his helmet and Calhoun strode into second base, but he was ruled out for intentionally interfering with a thrown ball by first-base umpire Rob Drake.
"I didn't really notice what Calhoun did, but everybody in the dugout said he intentionally moved his head," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "I hadn't really seen that. You can go back to the World Series with the Yankees and the Dodgers, when Reggie Jackson got in the way of a throw during the rundown between first and second, but you can't do that. You can't intentionally get in the way of a throw."
Calhoun didn’t argue the call, but manager Torey Lovullo did, earning his sixth ejection since becoming D-backs manager in 2017.
“In this situation, Kole was running to second base, he saw the catcher having the ball,” said crew chief Bill Miller, who was at third base. “He saw the catcher release the ball. He clearly tilted his head into the throw to get hit intentionally by the ball.”
The fact that the ball was likely going to hit Calhoun anyway does not matter, according to the rules.
“No, if he intentionally gets hit by the ball, he makes an action that intentionally he gets hit, then the ball is dead and he is out,” Miller said.
Runner interference calls are not necessarily rare, but Miller was asked whether he or his crew had ever seen a player use his head to interfere.
“We have never seen that before in our career,” he said.
Calhoun figured it was worth a shot, since he was going to be out anyway.
"To him, it looked like I tried to get in front of the ball,” Calhoun said of Drake. “In my opinion, I duck, I go to second, it's going to be a judgment call.”