Karlie Habitz goes to a lot of Dodgers games. She’s not a season-ticket holder, but she has arguably the best seat in the stadium, even though it’s a bucket turned upside-down.
The Valencia softball alumna is a Dodgers ball girl and her usual duties include warming up outfielders between innings and collecting foul balls. But on Saturday, June 15, she didn’t just collect a foul ball in the Dodgers’ game against the Chicago Cubs.
In the top of the sixth inning, a foul ball hit by the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo came hurtling towards right field, Habitz’s domain.
Habitz reached up and snagged the ball, which had an exit velocity of 101 miles per hour, as if it were a routine fly out. She handed the ball to a fan and calmly returned to her post.
“Honestly, it was a reaction,” said Habitz, who played catcher for Valencia from 2009-2012. “I sit there all day and just watching the game waiting for a ball to get hit to me. I just jumped up and got it and that was that. Usually, if a foul ball comes at me, I grab the ball and toss it to a fan. I felt like it was another routine play. Casual kind of thing for me.”
Her catch went viral on social media, drawing admiration from Billie Jean King as well as actresses Elizabeth Banks and Sarah Silverman, just to name a few.
Not only did Habitz do her job of catching a foul ball, but she also saved the spectators in the front row from being hit with it.
“I didn’t realize that it potentially had saved lives until I got home and my sister was like, ‘Did you notice the people behind you weren’t even paying attention?’ People behind me were on their phones, not paying attention and I guess I kind of did save a life or two. Especially that area, people need to be heads-up because foul balls do come at you pretty quick.”
The Dodgers released a statement on Monday that said the team had already begun plans to expand the netting around the stadium to better protect fans.
The statement came the day after a young girl sustained a concussion and had vision problems in her right eye as a result of being struck with a foul ball during a game against the Colorado Rockies.
Habitz said based on her experience on the field, she strongly supports the addition of netting but also urges fans to be aware of the potential hazards that come with sitting so close to the action.
“I sit in those seats all day and there’s so many times where I want to be like, ‘Pay attention,’” she said. “People turn their back to the field or like fathers are sitting there watching the game and have their kid crawling around on the floor. I’m like ‘Hey, what if a ball comes? Are you going to have the reaction to go toward your child?’
“I think it’s both. Yeah, there needs to be a protection for fans but fans need to be aware of where they’re sitting.”
Playing softball at Valencia and later at California State University, Northridge paid off when it came to snagging the job as a Dodgers ball girl and consequently, foul balls, for Habitz.
She was part of a competitive Vikings teams coached by Donna Lee throughout her prep career and reached the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 semifinals in 2010. At CSUN, she was named the Big West Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
“Hands down it helps a lot,” she said. “When you apply for the job they ask for experience, knowledge for the sport and it’s very convenient knowing I played and understand those pressures.
“I was catching pitches mid-60, 70 miles per hour, so high-speed velocity at me, it’s for sure been a good thing to have in your back pocket when you’re sitting there on that bucket.”