Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

July 5, 2012

Big league bang

9-year-old makes memorable Yankee Stadium catch

By David Willis
Staff Writer

For one day, Tanner O'Sullivan was not simply one of 50,291 fans at new Yankee Stadium.

On May 18, the Andover 9-year-old was the talk of the Bronx after turning in, with a little help from his dad, one of the most memorable catches to date at the four-year-old ballpark.

"When we were leaving the stadium," said dad Mark O'Sullivan, "people were yelling to us 'Great catch!' When we were on the subway people were coming over to us and telling Tanner what a great catch it was."

In New York to see his uncle, Cincinnati Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan of Andover, play the Yankees, Tanner made a highlight-reel catch of a foul ball that not only drew cheers from fans, but ended up on ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 plays of the day and has more than 200,000 views on YouTube.

"It was really exciting," Tanner said. "It was a lot of fun."

From the time Hanigan first made the major leagues in 2007 the O'Sullivan family, all lifetime Andover residents, began traveling to see him play in the big leagues. So, a rare Interleague series against the Yankees was a sure-fire trip.

But when they were about to leave for the game, Tanner very nearly didn't bring his trusty old glove.

"Tanner has had the same glove since he was 2-years-old," said mother Hayley O'Sullivan, Ryan's sister. "We have left it places and had to go back. So when we got to the hotel in New York, I told Tanner, 'Why don't we leave the glove here.' I guess it was a good thing we didn't."

Seated up in the family section in the second deck down the third base line, the O'Sullivan family had already seen one foul ball come their way, so Mark began making a plan.

"When the first one came flying by I thought to myself, if another one came over here I was going to lift Tanner up because this kid can catch anything," said Mark.

Sure enough, not long after, a foul ball was knocked in their direction off the bat of All-Star first baseman Joey Votto.

This time Mark picked his son up and the young lefty snared the hard liner as it was going past him.

"I had no idea my dad was going to pick me up," said Tanner. "So when he did I thought, 'Oh no.' It was kind of scary but it was really exciting, and it kind of felt like making any other catch."

Hayley, sitting behind her husband and son, had her head turned away from the field and was talking to her father when the line drive was hit, and did not know what had happened for a moment.

"I was talking to my dad and suddenly I heard a smack," she said. "When Tanner opened his glove and we saw the ball was in there, the smile on his face was great. He had always wanted to catch a foul ball. The family section is usually behind home plate, so it was random we were sitting there that day."

But the family didn't know quite the impact the catch made until they met with Hanigan following the game.

"Ryan saw the video clip after the game and said that it was SportsCenter material," said Hayley, whose daughters Anna (12) and Eliza (7) were also at the game.

"He came flying down with his iPhone to show us in the hotel. We had no idea it was such an amazing catch."

The famous ball from the catch is now sitting on a shelf in Tanner's room in the O'Sullivans' Andover home, and he hopes to have the ball signed by Votto this week when they were planning to see the Reds play in San Diego.

And the YouTube video, which was at 202,155 views as of Monday night, has been frequent viewing around the O'Sullivan home.

"Me and my dad can watch that video whenever we want," said Tanner. "And it was really cool to see myself on TV."

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