Throwing it all away

One drunken mistake can change
your life forever. Just ask Toronto
Blue Jays fan Ken Pagan

By Andre Mayer

Ken Pagan has been infatuated with baseball since he was eight years old, but since last fall, he can’t bring himself to watch a Toronto Blue Jays game.

Not because of the Jays’ dismal performance this season, but because in his mind, the team he has followed most of his life is now associated with his moment of infamy.

The feeling of unease is most acute when he catches a radio broadcast with play-by-play commentator Jerry Howarth, whose warm, nasally tone has been the voice of the Blue Jays since 1981.

“When I hear that voice, I think of the disappointment I’ve brought to the organization,” Pagan said. “I was an idiot. I let a lot of people down. I’d rather not sit through nine innings of feeling like that.”

You might not recognize Pagan’s name, but if you’re even a casual follower of baseball, you know what he did.

Last October, during the seventh inning of the American League wild card game between the Jays and the Baltimore Orioles at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, a beer can flung from the stands nearly hit an Orioles outfielder in the middle of play.

Sports commentary tends to embrace hyperbole, so let’s just say it felt like the Lob Heard Around the World.

Within seconds of that can of Bud Light hitting the Astroturf, social media erupted. People across North America, including horror novelist Stephen King, tweeted their disgust.

Before long, the online mob set out to find the “beer tosser.” Toronto Mayor John Tory, not known for his colourful language, called the perpetrator a “loon ball” and urged people who had been sitting in the left-field stands to turn the culprit in.

The outrage was stoked by the fact that not only could the toss have seriously injured a player but that it happened in a crucial post-season game and had embarrassed Toronto, which already had a reputation as a hostile environment for opposing baseball teams. Emotions ran at such a fever pitch that the Toronto Sun announced a $1,000 reward for anyone who could identify the thrower.

The breathless speculation and recrimination went on for a day and a half before Pagan finally turned himself in to police and was charged with mischief.

That single instance of reckless fan exuberance turned Pagan’s life upside down. It led to public humiliation, loss of employment, a nine-month court case and a temporary ban from every stadium in Major League Baseball.

But there’s a disconnect here, because the Ken Pagan who threw that can seems to have almost nothing in common with the actual man.

The first thing that strikes you about Pagan in real life is his politeness and mild manner. He speaks with a calm, measured voice that barely rises above a whisper, and in the hours I spent with him, I never once heard him curse (even when talking about this year’s Blue Jays).

When you meet him and look back on the life he has led, you can't help but come to one conclusion: This is no hooligan.

Speaking to CBC in his first media interview since the incident, the 42-year-old Hamilton, Ont., resident and former journalist said he has spent the better part of a year contemplating a split-second decision that has become a source of abiding shame.

But what troubles him most is that it threatens to erase everything else he has achieved.

For the last nine months, Pagan said he has been trying to remember “the person I was in the first 41 years of my life ... because that is the person I am — not a drunk beer tosser brought down by Twitter.”

II.

When it comes to sport, Pagan has never contented himself with being a spectator.

He showed athletic prowess from a young age. It started with hockey, which he played as a youngster growing up in Sudbury, Ont., all the way up through university.

He still plays recreationally, but his true passion is baseball. You get a sense of his veneration for the sport walking through his basement, which is adorned with signed and framed photos of baseball legends such as New York Yankees sluggers Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, Montreal Expos outfielder Tim Raines and pitcher Ferguson Jenkins.

Pagan discovered the game at age eight, went to his first Blue Jays game at 10 and has been a devotee ever since. His “best bucket list experience” was meeting hero Mark McGwire, the legendary home-run hitter and now bench coach for the San Diego Padres, at Wrigley Field in Chicago in May 2016.

Throughout the spring and summer, Pagan spends most of his evenings either playing or coaching baseball. He’s so obsessed with the game that he even schedules his holidays around it.

In 2005, he and a couple of family members took a road trip through the northern U.S. in which they saw seven Major League Baseball games in seven days. In recent years, he and friends have played in tournaments in Arizona and Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the baseball hall of fame.

“Nobody loves baseball more than Ken does.”

Steve Pepi, a friend who has accompanied Pagan on many of these trips, put it simply: “Nobody loves baseball more than [Ken] does.”

Given his broad shoulders, physical poise and demonstrated talent for both hockey and baseball, it’s conceivable that Pagan could have pursued a career in sport. But he had a gift for writing and a strong impulse to tell stories.

After taking a journalism course at Cambrian College, he landed a placement at the Sudbury Star. Pagan eventually ended up at the North Bay Nugget, where he gained a reputation for his incisive and thoughtful coverage of local sports. He reported on the big events as a matter of course, but he often gravitated to the less glamorous ones because they contained more meaningful stories.

Pagan said one of his most memorable assignments was a piece on sledge hockey, a sport that uses a custom sled to allow people with physical disabilities to play the game. What struck him most reporting on a startup sledge hockey program in North Bay was the pride of the players’ parents, watching their children participate in a sport for the first time.

“There’s a human story there,” Pagan said.

Paul McLean, who owns a sports store in North Bay and played recreational hockey with Pagan, applauded his pursuit of those kinds of stories at a time when many media companies, because of dwindling resources, were increasingly ignoring local sports coverage.

McLean said he still has a mental image of Pagan “getting out of his car with the camera, with the big telescopic lens, going from an arena to a ballfield to a gym” to capture the triumphs of young athletes.

Pagan admitted he took great pride in that local focus.

“It was work, but it was also natural. I enjoyed that role,” he said.

Pagan loved the sports community up there, but in 2012, he was offered a job as a copy editor at a larger news organization, Postmedia. It was too good to pass up. In a rueful parting column for the North Bay Nugget, Pagan recalled his time there as “the best 10 years of my life.”

The Postmedia job meant moving south to Hamilton, a city of about half a million people an hour outside of Toronto. At Postmedia, Pagan edited and packaged stories from across the country. He didn’t leave the office much, but he enjoyed a new editorial challenge and the camaraderie of his colleagues.

The new job also got him closer to the Blue Jays.

III.

After moving to the Golden Horseshoe, Pagan managed to get to seven or eight Jays games every season, and like many fans, he became swept up in the delirium of the team’s recent playoff successes.

Jose Bautista’s game-winning home run against the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series — and the insouciant bat flip that followed — represented a climactic moment in recent Toronto sports history. The Jays bowed out before reaching the World Series, but the team’s electrifying run in 2015 set the bar for the next season.

The Jays fell short of winning their division in 2016, which necessitated a one-game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles on Oct. 4.

Going to the game was something of a last-minute decision for Pagan. His brother Mike and some pals from his Sudbury days had tickets, but it wasn’t until Pagan switched a shift with one of his Postmedia colleagues that he was freed up to go. He bought a single ticket online around midnight the night before.

Pagan met his brother and friends at a bar near the Rogers Centre around 5:45 p.m. Pagan said he wasn’t feeling anything unusual that night beyond the buzzing excitement of playoff baseball. But he had “a few beers” at the restaurant “and kept up that pace through the evening.”

The game had a slightly later start — 8 p.m. — and the gang were in their seats in time for the national anthem. Because he had a single ticket, Pagan was sitting in Section 138 while his brother and friends were in 139. By the second inning, it became clear there were empty seats in Section 139, so Pagan joined them.

The game turned out to be a doozy of gruelling suspense. Bautista homered in the second inning to put the Jays up 1-0. In the fourth, the Orioles went ahead 2-1 on a Mark Trumbo home run. An inning later, the Jays pulled even on an Ezequiel Carrera single.

It then became a pitchers’ duel.

“It was an incredibly tense, incredibly anxious game,” said Stacey May Fowles, a Toronto sportswriter and author of the book Baseball Life Advice, who was there. “Inning after inning, there was no movement in the score.”

In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Jays’ Melvin Upton, Jr. hit a ball deep into left field. It was a promising shot that galvanized the crowd, until it became clear that it didn’t have enough thrust to clear the wall.

Baltimore outfielder Hyun Soo Kim planted his feet on the warning track to receive it — and that’s when the can of Bud Light came flying at him.

Watching the replay, you can’t help but marvel at Kim’s concentration — the object fizzes by his head and lands with a splash beside him, but not for a nanosecond does he lose track of the ball. But having safely made the out, Kim took stock of the situation with a look of horror.

Pagan can’t really articulate what compelled him to throw the can, other than to suggest it was a mixture of giddiness and too much alcohol.

“There’s no thought — you’re in the outfield, there’s a ball hit in your direction… excitement… Honestly, if I was to break down the blow-by-blow, I’d be speculating myself. There’s no thought process. It was an impulse.

“I equate it to if you’ve ever taken a bad penalty in hockey and realized, What did I just do? How did that happen?”

The incident cast a pall over the stadium, a mixture of confusion and annoyance. Fowles, like many in the crowd, didn’t see it occur.

“When you’re in the stands, it’s really hard to get a clear picture of everything that’s happening in the stadium,” she said. “What tends to happen is that people are on their phones, trying to find out what just happened.”

Not even Mike Pagan, who had been sitting right in front of his brother at the time, saw it transpire. But when he eventually cottoned on to what had happened, and that his brother was responsible, he was taken aback.

“I was kinda shocked — like, ‘Oh, man, what did you do that for?’” Mike Pagan said. “It was completely out of character.”

In the immediate aftermath, Orioles centrefielder Adam Jones came over and exchanged heated words with fans in the left-field stands. Orioles manager Buck Showalter was so incensed he stalked out of the dugout, visibly enraged.

Pagan said that when Showalter began to return to the dugout, he decided it was time to leave. “I leaned forward to the four people in front of me and said, ‘That was me. I’ll text you in a little bit. I’m going to go.’”

Pagan shuffled down the aisle and out into the concourse. He could see on the TV monitors that there was still a great commotion on the field after the incident.

“It hit me that this could get really bad,” Pagan said. After taking a short time out in the bathroom, he went up to the 200 level. He watched the game for about half an inning but couldn’t really focus.

His mind “racing 100 miles an hour,” he had only one thought: “I had to find some safety.” Pagan left the stadium and went to a friend’s condo nearby, where he had been planning to spend the night.

* * *

The Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion eventually broke the deadlock with a spectacular three-run homer in the 11th inning.

The Jays were on to the next round of the playoffs, but after the game, it seemed all people were talking about was the beer tosser.

Online sleuths tried to figure out who had committed this gross misconduct, which was not only crude, dangerous and disruptive but seemed an affront to the Canadian character.

One YouTuber posted a video that same night that suggested the perpetrator was a blond woman who may have repeated the feat after Encarnacion’s game-winning homer. The video zooms in on the game footage to purportedly reveal the woman’s face — although all it proves is that second-hand video, magnified to the nth degree, looks like bad watercolour art.

IV.

Pagan’s girlfriend, Carlee Kantautas, was listening to radio coverage of the beer toss while carpooling into work the next morning.

“We have CBC on while we’re driving, and they’re talking about it, and we’re saying, ‘What an idiot. I can’t believe someone would do that,’” said Kantautas, who works in downtown Toronto.

Pagan didn’t wake up until 10 that morning — about half an hour after Canadian Press photographer Frank Gunn had tweeted a series of pictures he’d taken of the section from where the beer can had likely originated moments after it was launched.

In the crowd is Pagan, in a Blue Jays T-shirt and a grey hoodie, eyes averted like a schoolboy girding himself for a harsh reprimand.

On social media, people quickly decided that Pagan was the thrower.

During her coffee break, Kantautas talked to someone who had seen the photo. “One of my friends said, ‘Ken looks so guilty,’ and I was like, ‘Ken wouldn’t do that,’” Kantautas said.

“A half an hour after that, he called me.”

Pagan confessed to Kantautas what had happened. She was astonished, but her shock quickly turned to concern as she watched the media coverage grow more intense.

The story had made the New York Post, USA Today and Fox News while continuing to churn on Facebook and Twitter.

“I was on my phone and on my computer all morning, just watching it escalate, escalate, escalate, just thinking, Oh my God, what’s going to happen?” said Kantautas. “So, that’s when I thought, we should just talk to a lawyer.”

Pagan drove home to Hamilton. After letting his dog out, he contacted a local defence lawyer around 2:15 p.m. and said, “I’m the beer tosser. What should I do?” The lawyer agreed to see him, and they ended up speaking for about 90 minutes, in which time Pagan also took calls from his brother Mike and his employer, Postmedia.

The lawyer advised Pagan to stay silent, start drafting an apology and that they could take care of it the next day. Pagan and Kantautas felt uneasy about this — they thought Pagan should simply turn himself in. But they ultimately complied. (They would eventually hire a different lawyer.)

That afternoon, the Toronto Blue Jays released a statement offering “sincere apologies and regrets” to the Baltimore Orioles organization and MLB “for this embarrassing incident.”

It also stressed “the safety of our fans, staff, players and visiting teams is paramount” and that the Blue Jays organization was “co-operating with the authorities to identify the individual involved, and the individual responsible is not welcome back to the stadium.”

Around 5 p.m., Pagan went into work, but given all of the hubbub, he ended up leaving within an hour.

Toronto police released the Canadian Press photo of Pagan, identifying him as a possible suspect, around 6:10 p.m. It was around this time that Pagan returned home. He went into the bedroom and started calling his parents when the doorbell rang. It was the first reporter.

Kantautas shooed him away, but moments later, another reporter walked right into the house and shouted, “Hello?” Becoming increasingly unnerved, Kantautas drove him away, too.

Now that police had released the photo, Pagan felt he had to come clean. He called the police around 6:45 p.m. and set up a time to come in the next day. He badly wanted to turn himself in but had to wait almost 24 hours before officers would meet with him.

Meanwhile, Pagan was being relentlessly mocked online. People were even creating fake Twitter and Facebook accounts pretending to be him.

“I can’t explain how my heart ached every time I read a tweet. Your heart’s aching knowing how Ken might be affected by this, how it’s hurting him,” said Kantautas. “I just can’t believe that people would take the time in their day to do that."

Some of the messages he was getting on social media “were just disgusting — pure bullying and hurtful and really hard to read,” she said.

When Paul McLean, a friend back in North Bay, saw how social media was piling on to his old buddy “Pagz,” he decided to defend him.

Believing him to be innocent, McLean produced T-shirts with “#FreePagz” emblazoned on the front, with the idea of donating $5 from every sale to Pagan’s legal fund. The campaign received widespread media coverage and McLean ended up raising $1,500.

Pagan was touched by the initiative but asked McLean to give the money to a children’s charity instead.

* * *

On Oct. 6, around 7 p.m., Pagan, wearing a short-sleeved button-down shirt and glasses, walked into Toronto’s 52 Division with his new lawyer, Tyler Smith, to make his confession. Local media were there to greet him.

McLean felt chastened once he learned that Pagan was, in fact, the beer tosser, but he supported him nonetheless.

“That spiral came and went, and I’m like, ‘I don’t care if he did it,’” said McLean. “He was a great guy when he was here. He did a lot for us. And in a couple of seconds, he made a mistake that we know he would take back. We’re still gonna stand up for our guy.”

The fact that Pagan copped to being the beer tosser was doubly confounding for fellow Postmedia employees. For one thing, he was a beloved colleague who seemed incapable of such boorish behaviour. But also, it was a Postmedia property, the Toronto Sun, that had so enthusiastically sought his identity with that $1,000 reward.

Pagan officially stopped working at Postmedia on Oct. 13. The exact details of his departure are covered by a non-disclosure agreement.

He realized at the time that the incident at the Rogers Centre was a “career ender,” and admitted that no longer working in his field after 16 years was a tremendous blow.

“Imagine doing something you love, and the next day, you’re never doing it again,” Pagan said. “That’s what it’s been like.”

V.

As far as baseball lore goes, the only incident in recent times that might have been more controversial than the beer toss was the case of Steve Bartman.

It was Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series and the Chicago Cubs needed two outs to retire the Florida Marlins for the inning — and five to win their first National League pennant since 1945.

Bartman, a lifelong Cubs fan, was sitting in the stands at Wrigley Field watching his team defend a 3-0 lead when the Marlins’ Luis Castillo smacked a foul ball down the left-field line. Outfielder Moises Alou was positioned to catch it, but Bartman put his hands up and deflected it, thereby depriving Alou — and the Cubs — of an easy out.

The Cubs ended up surrendering eight runs that inning and lost the game 8-3. They also lost the next game and missed the World Series.

Many fans believe Bartman’s ill-advised intervention was what started the team’s playoff collapse. He became the subject of virulent criticism and needed police protection after his address was made public on MLB message boards.

As in Pagan's case, the perpetrator felt immense shame. In a statement released the next day, Bartman said, "There are few words to describe how awful I feel,” ultimately concluding: “To Moises Alou, the Chicago Cubs organization ... and Cub fans everywhere, I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan's broken heart.” Bartman, the subject of a 2011 documentary called Catching Hell, wasn't heard from again publicly until July 31 of this year after the Cubs presented him with a 2016 World Series ring. It was a gesture to, in the team's words, try to lift his “public burden” and end an “unfortunate chapter” in Cubs history.

Pagan admitted to feeling a similar anguish as Bartman. “You have friends that go to bat for you and stick their neck out and say, ‘He would not do that’ — and I did that. That’s a source of disappointment in myself in all this. Just letting people down like that.”

Shame can be far more damaging than guilt. Many people assume the two emotions are synonymous, but there's a difference in how one or the other affects how we view the underlying problem, said Dr. Michael Lewis, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the author of Shame: The Exposed Self .

Someone who feels guilty focuses on the action and resolves to never repeat it. Someone who feels shame thinks there is something inherently wrong with them, and that feeling is harder to repair, Lewis said.

For Pagan, the fact that it all played out on social media would only exacerbate the feeling of shame, Lewis said.

He gave the example of someone who cheats on their taxes: they might feel shame, but it’s a private act. Those self-conscious feelings are “exaggerated” when the person is found out, Lewis said. Pagan is “both ashamed and embarrassed — embarrassed [because] he’s publicly exposed for having done this. He’s got the full blast.”

Among other things, Pagan’s story is another example of the internet’s unique ability to crucify people for a single, ill-advised act — however reprehensible. British author Jon Ronson catalogued many such examples in his 2015 book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, but arguably the most notorious was that of Justine Sacco.

A corporate communications professional, Sacco was flying from London to Cape Town in late 2013 when she posted what she thought was a cheeky, ironic tweet just prior to departure: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

“We felt sorry for him, because the media just ran with this before he even had a chance to defend himself.”

The comment lit up the Twittersphere, where Sacco was excoriated for being racist. By the time she landed, she had become a trending topic. As a result of that tweet, Sacco lost her job, was hounded by photographers and was mercilessly mocked for months afterward.

All of the friends and family who were interviewed for this piece, as well as those who provided character references to the judge in Pagan’s case, affirmed his profound decency and stressed how uncharacteristic the act had been.

Pagan’s mom, Diane, said she tried to emphasize to him that “we didn’t feel let down.”

“We felt sorry for him, because the media just ran with this before he even had a chance to defend himself. We tried to stress that to him: ‘This happened. It’s a stupid thing, but you’re not a stupid person. You’re not a bad person.’”

Pagan’s parents even suggested that the incident, while unfortunate, was a chance for Pagan to reinvent himself, which Lewis acknowledged is a healthy perspective.

“What they’re saying is, ‘You’re not terribly broken,’” said Lewis. “There is repair possible. There is a redemption.”

The Pagans and Kantautas have tried to remain positive, but it can be difficult given the interconnectedness of the digital age.

Pagan and Kantautas spent the Christmas holidays with his family in Sudbury, and Diane Pagan recounted a sobering moment on Christmas morning while Pagan was browsing on his smartphone.

“I was getting breakfast, and he was sitting at the table, and he said to Carlee, ‘Look at this.’ I said, ‘What’s this?’ And he said, ‘Oh, some guy in Vancouver just emailed and said, “What are you doing today, loser?”’”

VI.

Pagan said that from the moment he was charged, he intended to plead guilty. His expectation was that the case would be resolved by Christmas or early in the new year.

But the case went through multiple delays and postponements — and all the while, Pagan had to remain silent, on his lawyer’s advice (although some brief quotes did make it into a Toronto Sun story early on). It was a kind of purgatory.

In the weeks after leaving Postmedia, Pagan cobbled together some work. He had already been doing part-time shifts at a landscape supply yard, and his boss, eager to help him out, gave him more hours.

Pagan also started delivering pizza for Domino’s.

He continued to play hockey in the evenings, and in March, he started full-time work as a recycling attendant for a third-party contractor at an industrial site.

He felt he couldn’t really move on with his life and career until he knew his legal fate. Friends and family talked about Pagan’s sharp humour, but I saw no real evidence of it. He was unfailingly kind, but more than anything, Pagan exuded a wariness.

Mike Pagan said the incident has changed his brother.

“You don’t like to talk about this stuff because it does kind of choke me up, but he lost his confidence,” he said. “For a while, he didn’t want to go out in public because he was ‘that guy,’ and he thought everyone recognized him as ‘that guy.’”

Ken Pagan admitted that since the beer toss, he has felt uneasy in larger groups of people he doesn’t know and often finds himself wondering what — if anything — they know about his past.

In May, he pleaded guilty to mischief. The Crown was seeking a conviction on the basis of “denunciation and deterrence,” which carries a sentence of up to two years in prison.

During the sentencing on June 28, Pagan’s lawyer argued that the act had been completely out of character and that he had already suffered enough. Then Pagan went in front of the judge to read his apology, the first time he had spoken in public since the incident.

“I am truly sorry, and I am working hard to be the best person I can be.”

He did so with a slight tremor in his voice and hands.

Acknowledging that he was “lucky” that “nobody was injured” in the incident, Pagan said, “I have been a passionate baseball fan since getting hooked as an eight-year-old in the summer of 1983, and I am fully aware of the disgrace I brought to the game.”

He concluded by saying, “I am truly sorry, and I am working hard to be the best person I can be.”

Ironically, the online shaming actually worked in Pagan’s favour. Acknowledging the public humiliation he had endured, the judge gave Pagan a discharge conditional on a year of probation. In that time, Pagan will have to perform 100 hours of community service and will be banned from all MLB stadiums.

Some commentators have speculated that the reaction to Pagan’s action was part of a broader strategy of deterrence to rein in bad fan behaviour at MLB games.

In recent years, there have been other high-profile examples of belligerence, such as in Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series — i.e. the Bautista bat-flip game — in which a young child was reportedly hit by a beer can in the seats behind home plate.

There have also been reports of racial taunting of opposing players. In May, officials at Fenway Park in Boston permanently banned a fan for using a racial slur in the stadium.

The Blue Jays organization refused to comment further on the Pagan incident. MLB wouldn’t agree to an interview, either, but in an email statement, spokesman Michael Teevan said, “We prioritize the safety of our on-field personnel and the fans who visit our ballparks, and we hope that deterrents will prevent such episodes in the future.”

* * *

The incident in October obviously threw Pagan’s life into turmoil, but he’s in a good place now. For one thing, he has full-time work, having recently taken a salaried position as a janitorial supervisor at his recycling job.

“I think there are people out there who think I have been sitting on a couch for nine months or gone into hiding and my life is destroyed. In fact, my life has been close to normal,” he said.

“I am a busy guy with some positive things happening, so my life may have been impacted by social media, but it hasn't been ruined.”

And then there’s his relationship with baseball itself. You would assume that for someone so enamoured of the game, being banned from MLB would be crushing. But Pagan is sanguine about it.

Sitting next to Kantautas in his backyard on a warm July evening, he said he felt the ban was “pretty appropriate” and that he had “no issues” with it.

“Would you even want to go to a baseball game in the next year?” Kantautas asked him. “I’d be scared for you, that someone would recognize you and do something stupid.” Pagan silently concurred.

He may be barred from big-league games, but Pagan said there’s an upshot to his new circumstances: He has more time for amateur baseball. He plays with or assists local teams most nights of the week.

One recent evening, he provided an extra hand to the Burlington Bulls, an under-21 team.

While the young men showed off their cocky athleticism and repertoire of wisecracks, Pagan moved almost silently among them. Decked out in a ballcap and “Burlington Baseball” hoodie, he hit ground balls for the fielders and helped chalk the baselines during practice. During the game, he coached baserunners and marked the lineup card.

Between innings, Pagan spoke repeatedly about the “great atmosphere.” The comment seemed banal at first, but it distilled his reverence for the sport, down to the most mundane detail.

That reverence is apparent anytime he’s near the field: He can’t stop smiling.

Despite everything, Pagan still loves the sport.

“I have to respect the game. I do respect the game,” he said stoically. “I just had a weak moment.”

Photography: Evan Mitsui | Editing: Kazi Stastna