16 years after 'the catch,' Jeffrey Maier lives a normal life

Then-Baltimore Orioles' right fielder Tony Tarasco stretches for Then-Baltimore Orioles' right fielder Tony Tarasco stretches for the ball as young Yankee fan Jeff Maier deflects it during Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees in New York. Photo Credit: AP, 1996

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The Yankees hosted the Orioles in the playoffs last night for the first time since the 1996 ALCS. They had to do so without one of their most famous fans in attendance.

"I think I enjoy watching the games from my couch now," Jeffrey Maier said the other day by telephone.

It was the then 12-year-old Maier who, in 1996, famously reached out and interfered with a Derek Jeter fly ball to the rightfield wall at old Yankee Stadium in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the Yankees-Orioles ALCS.

Long before instant replay came to baseball, Jeter's ball was incorrectly ruled a game-tying home run and not fan interference by umpire Richie Garcia. The Yankees went on to win the game in 11 innings and the series in five games.

Maier became a celebrity in New York and a name people say through clenched teeth in Baltimore. Today, he is a married 28-year-old father of two who lives in Amherst, N.H., and watches the Yankees on television.

Since it became known last week that the Yankees were playing the Orioles in the ALDS, Maier has been back in the spotlight. It's something he has dealt with gracefully.

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"For the most part, it's part of history, for good or for worse," Maier said. "It's something that I have embraced and come to accept. It's come full circle now that the Orioles are back in the playoffs."

Maier, who grew up in Old Tappan, N.J., said he has quietly attended about 10 Yankees home games since 1996, including one this season (coincidentally against Baltimore).

"I certainly don't run around letting people know who I am," he said. "I don't have a sign over my head or carry a publicist in my pocket or anything like that."

Maier also went to a 2008 game at Baltimore's Camden Yards, but went unrecognized -- by design.

"I made sure my brother-in-law bought the beers," he said.

Maier wasn't being stingy. He just didn't want to show the vendor his ID lest he be remembered less than fondly in Charm City.

Mostly, Maier has lived a normal life with baseball undertones since his brush with fame. A third baseman and outfielder, he was the all-time hits leader at Division III Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He played a summer in the New England Collegiate Baseball League on a team owned by Dan Duquette, the current Orioles general manager.

Today, Maier is the director of sales for LeagueApps, a digital sports media company that offers league management software (online registration, schedules, standings, team pages, player profiles, etc.) and digital platforms for adult recreational sports leagues. The company was co-founded by Great Neck native Brian Litvack; its clients include ABA Sports of Long Island.

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Even living in Red Sox country (Maier's wife, Andrea, is a Red Sox fan), Maier remains a die-hard Yankees rooter. He stayed up late to watch every pitch of the first two games of the ALDS and planned to do the same last night.

He also thinks he knows who's going to win the series. Even if he doesn't plan to have anything to do with the outcome this time.

"Man, I've got to be diplomatic," he said. "I'm going to go Yankees in five."

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