Can MLB Actually Enforce Lifetime Ban on Yankees Fan Who Struck Alex Verdugo With a Baseball?

Could facial recognition technology help keep banned fans out of ballparks?

Alex Verdugo gestures towards the stands after being hit with a baseball.
Alex Verdugo gestures towards the stands after being hit with a baseball.
Adam Hunger/Getty

The fan who threw a baseball onto the field and hit Boston Red Sox left fielder Alex Verdugo with it at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night has been banned from attending major league games for life.

“While the Yankees appreciate the spirit and passion of our fans in our various rivalries — especially with the Red Sox — reckless, disorderly and dangerous behavior that puts the safety of players, field staff or fellow fans in jeopardy will not be tolerated,” the Yankees said in a statement on Sunday. “There is absolutely no place for it at Yankee Stadium. The safety of everyone at Yankee Stadium, including guests in the stands and players on the field, will always be the top priority for the Yankees organization every time we open our doors.”

Lifetime bans have become somewhat common for unruly sports fans, but are they enforceable? In a new piece for Sports Illustrated, Michael Rosenberg explains how they might be.

Per Rosenberg, arenas like Madison Square Garden have started to use facial-recognition technology and software called Trueface that can identify fans coming into the venue with entry-level cameras. Using a pre-loaded list of images, Trueface’s tech can recognize a banned fan’s face and send security a notification to engage with that person.

“It’s important here to note that, let’s say that I was not on that banned list and I was walking through; it’s just a regular ticketed customer,” Trueface CEO Shaun Moore told SI. “It would not be storing any information on me at all. Trueface would never come to the table with a database of people that the stadium could use.”

Right …

We aren’t there yet, but Trueface also envisions a future where fans will opt-in to having their image on file in order to walk into an arena without a ticket and buy beer and food without a credit card because the camera will already know who they are and charge their account accordingly. Moore calls it “one seamless identity,” and we call it kinda terrifying.

In an interesting twist that makes the lifetime ban, if enforceable, even more painful, the fan who threw the ball onto the field may have been a victim of peer pressure from other Yankees fans.

Won’t help him much at this point.

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