Cubs slugger Ian Happ has had a rough time in his fifth MLB season. Some of the issues he can control, some he cannot. Happ's hitting numbers tanked early. He badly bruised his ribs in a painful collision with teammate Nico Hoerner in early May that forced him out of his most productive game of the season and put him on the injured list. Not least of all, the Cubs season collectively disintegrated, and many of his teammates got traded. It's all been kind of a drag.
And now, Happ alleges in a radio interview, fans are throwing candy projectiles at him in the outfield.
Happ told Dan Bernstein and Leila Rahimi of 670 The Score in Chicago that he was hit by a Skittles at Target Field in Minnesota on Wednesday night. And he said it felt like getting shot with a BB gun. So much for the legend of Minnesota Nice.
Happ's conversation was in the context of his former teammate, Javy Báez, turning on Mets fans who booed him and his new team. Happ said he understood "fan frustration" about team performance, but he quickly pivoted to something personal. Via NBC Sports Chicago:
“I got hit yesterday with a flying object," Happ said. "It was actually a Skittle from the left-field stands at Target Field. It felt like I got shot by an airsoft gun."
That’s a lot worse than any thumb’s down.
It might sound funny because it was a Skittle, a small piece of candy with a funny-sounding name. But it's not funny. It's pathetic, irritating and dangerous. It crosses all lines of decorum and acceptable behavior in public. It's also assault.
"I was so mad," Happ said. "I turned around. I was just livid. There was a group of [fans in their 20s]. Just scum. They were throwing Skittles at me in the middle of the game. You’re like, 'How does this [happen]?’"
Happ's right. Those fans are a lower-life form. Target Field security should use any means necessary to protect the players, first by looking at whatever video is available. The Twins were lucky the Cubs didn't make them close the outfield seating areas. And if you say, "It's just a Skittle" — and somebody out there is saying just that — save it. It doesn't matter. You can't throw objects at players. It's obviously dangerous. There should be zero tolerance for it. Sadly, such behavior is not anything new.
MLB history in particular is replete with stories of unruly fans throwing objects at players. Some fans, often encouraged with alcohol, take advantage of their proximity to the field and take out their troubles on the athletes. Reggie Jackson used to wear a batting helmet when he played right field because fans threw stuff at him. Fans even threw candy bars at Reggie Jackson — that had his own name on them. Players have been hit with batteries, coins, cups of beer, snowballs — even laser beams — just about anything that can be wielded and isn't nailed down. Just six weeks ago, a fan at Yankee Stadium threw a ball at Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo. That fan was banned for life.
Happ said he tried to get the fans thrown out, but the ushers could not track them down.
"You can’t do anything," Happ said. "You can’t run up there and give them a talking to. Little things like that as a player, when you’re trying to compete on the field and entertain, it’s tough."
He doesn't want to make a big deal out of it because it was such a small object. But even those, if used at the wrong time, can make for a disaster. And that's not even the point. Players shouldn't have to be looking over their shoulders because fans might hit them with something. This should be obvious but, anymore, too many people like to make up their own facts, and need reminding about what's right and wrong.
Happ added later that he appreciates most of the interactions he has with fans, and that 95 percent of them are supportive. Fans don’t always have to be supportive — they don’t ever have to be supportive if they don’t want to. They could sit there and boo or sit there and veg out. But they do have to not pelt the players with foreign objects.