For baseball players, tracking down a fly ball takes a combination of speed, agility, strength, and anticipation. But sometimes, it also takes a little bit of luck.
Diving catches in baseball can be like an art form—guiding your glove to the perfect spot just above the grass before the ball falls in—but they also can be dangerous. Players have flung themselves into the stands, into walls, and into dirt, leaving all thoughts of personal health and wellbeing behind, all in the name of making a catch.
Here's a look at the most athletic, hard-to-believe, and gravity-defying diving catches in baseball since the turn of the century.
Jim Edmonds, 2004
The longtime St. Louis Cardinals outfielder won eight Gold Glove awards in his career, mainly because he made most of his acrobatic diving catches look routine. This catch against the Houston Astros is legendary among MLB players—especially the ones who witnessed it during Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS, one of the greatest postseason series ever—and it only added to the Edmonds' legend as a human highlight reel. Edmonds, who was playing very shallow on the play, darted towards the gap on a hit by Brad Ausmus and somehow tracked down the ball, saving two runs and helping St. Louis win the series.
Edmonds also had one of the best catches of all time—previous to the turn of the century—while with the Angels, and it’s worth watching too. Edmonds tracked the ball as it was going over his head, and he went straight back towards the outfield wall and completely laid out to make the grab:
Aaron Rowand, 2006
The fence on the outfield wall at Citizens Bank Park was no problem for Aaron Rowand against the New York Mets in 2006. Rowand was known for giving 100 percent effort in the outfield, and on this play he put life and limb (and nose) on the line to rob Xavier Nady of an extra-base hit. Roward broke his nose on the play and also suffered a broken cheekbone, orbital bone, and face lacerations that required 15 stitches.
Rowan even previously told team execs that he would one day smash his face against the wall at the park: "You need to pad this, because I am going to kill myself on this thing. I'll hit it. I promise," Rowand once said, according to Fox Sports.
David Wright, 2005
The New York Mets third baseman went after this ball against the Seattle Mariners in June of 2005 without thinking about his own health or the possibility of breaking bones in his face. Wright followed the ball as it trails into foul territory—leaping into the stands among a throng of fans, emerging with the ball in his glove and his hat left behind as collateral damage.
David Wright, 2005
The homegrown New York Mets star had quite the season in 2005 when it came to diving catches. After previously making a stunning diving-into-the-stands catch against the Seattle Mariners, the third baseman didn’t even need his glove for this spectacular grab against the San Diego Padres. Wright tracked the looping ball into left field and snatched it at the last second with his bare hand—crashing hard into the grass after recording the out.
Willie Harris, 2010
During the course of his career, Harris made a number of strong defensive plays against the New York Mets, including this robbery from 2010. With two outs, the bases loaded, and the Washington Nationals clinging to a 4-3 lead, Harris charged in and laid out his body to make the game-saving grab. Check out the play here, and some of the best Harris catches of his career below:
Curtis Granderson, 2011
Making a diving catch is always badass, but nothing's more badass than making a diving catch in the playoffs to help your team out of a jam. Curtis Granderson did just that against the Detroit Tigers in the 2011 ALDS for the New York Yankees, going airborne and almost putting his body horizontal to the outfield grass to make the out for pitcher A.J. Burnett.
Gregor Blanco, 2012
As the saying goes, there's always one great defensive play in every no-hitter or perfect game—and Matt Cain’s road to perfection in 2012 was no different. Cain was rolling perfect through seven innings against the Houston Astros when Jordan Schafer hit a long drive towards center field. It looked as if the perfecto was over at that point, but Blanco was having none of that: The outfielder made up ground like The Flash and extended out towards the warning track, catching the ball and keeping the perfect game alive.
Derek Jeter, 2004
The legendary New York Yankees shortstop flashed the leather quite a bit through his career, but when it comes to going all-out for a catch, this one against the rival Boston Red Sox takes the cake. Nicknamed “The Dive,” Jeter tracks this ball from his position at shortstop all the way into the short-left field stands. Though technically this isn’t a diving catch because Jeter was able to grab it while still on his feet, the play finished with a dive—and a bloody face for the model-magnet MLB superstar.
Steven Souza, 2014
Steven Souza Jr. decided to try his best Gregor Blanco impression to help out Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter for the Washington Nationals on the final day of the 2014 season. With two outs in the top of the ninth, Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich smoked the ball off his bat into the left-centerfield gap, and it looked like the no-hitter was over—but Souza had a different idea. Souza tracked down the ball and made a full-extension grab with his body, hauling in the out to preserve the no-hitter and Zimmermann’s place in baseball immortality.
Josh Donaldson, 2015
The Toronto Blue Jays third baseman made sure that Marco Estrada’s bid for a perfect game would continue in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays with this “fan”-tastic catch. Donaldson launched himself into the stands to make the grab, fully extending his body before landing face-first in the chest of a fan three rows deep. Although Estrada would lose the perfect game bid on the next batter, at least it wasn't on Donaldson's watch.
Quintin Berry, 2012
During his rookie season, Berry endeared himself to his Detroit Tigers teammates by giving an everything he had at the end of a game against the Chicago White Sox. Clinging to a 4-2 lead with their closer on the mound, Berry was able to track down a fading line drive by All Star Paul Konerko, ending the game and sealing the victory for his team.