Ken Pagan’s life changed forever with the extension of his elbow and the flick of his wrist.
Pagan, an avid hockey and baseball fan, etched his name in MLB postseason lore last October — just for all the wrong reasons.
His name won’t immediately ring a bell like other infamous fans like Jeffrey Maier, the 12-year-old ballhawk who snatched a controversial home-run ball in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS between the Yankees and Orioles or Steve Bartman, the fan who interfered with a foul ball and watched his beloved Cubs drop the 2003 NLCS to the Marlins.
Pagan’s actions align more with the drunken idiot at every ballgame.
Despite being a man who lived a normal and quiet life as a Canadian journalist, Pagan transformed into the unruly fan who hurled a can of beer at Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim in the seventh inning of the 2016 AL wild-card game in Toronto. It didn’t take long for his life to forever change, thanks to video going viral on social media and MLB banning him from every stadium.
In a long feature story with CBC, Pagan opened up about the drunken antics that turned his world upside down. He admitted he cannot watch a Blue Jays game anymore without feeling some sort of guilt. He even experiences PTSD-like symptoms when he turns on the Jays’ radio broadcast.
“When I hear that voice, I think of the disappointment I’ve brought to the organization,” Pagan said, about the moments he tries to listen to Jerry Howarth, the Blue Jays play-by-play man since 1981. “I was an idiot. I let a lot of people down. I’d rather not sit through nine innings of feeling like that.”
In Pagan’s words, the decision to go to the wild-card game was a late one. His brother and a few friends had tickets to the game and Pagan was able to switch shifts with an employee at Postmedia that allowed him to purchase his own ticket late the night before.
Before the game, he and his friends had “a few beers,” and he admitted he kept drinking throughout the evening. Pagan couldn’t really describe what caused him to throw the beer can during that fateful seventh inning besides his mind — and arm — copping to the excitement of the game and his intoxication.
“There’s no thought — you’re in the outfield, there’s a ball hit in your direction … excitement,” Pagan recalled. “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?’”
His brother was shocked to watch the events unfold. His girlfriend thought, at the time, that whoever chucked the beer was an idiot.
His 15 minutes of stupidity started a social media witchhunt, with Twitter and Facebook users trying to piece together clues to help identity the beer-thrower from a grainy TV broadcast image. The Toronto Sun even offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who helped identify the booze-tosser.
Pagan, 42, eventually turned himself in a day later and was charged with mischief. Once an award-winning journalist, he quickly became unemployed. Pagan realized his career as a journalist was over and started to piece his life together, first continuing his part-time work at a landscape supply yard, and then, as a delivery boy for Domino’s pizza.
Nine months after the initial incident, Pagan appeared before a judge in June after he pleaded guilty to mischief in May. His lawyer argued that he suffered enough from the wrath he received on social media while Pagan himself seemed, according to CBC, to acknowledge his mistake emotionally through a statement he read in court.
“My emotions got the best of me in an exciting moment and my reaction is a deeply regrettable mistake, something I’ve been torn about since the moment it happened,” Pagan said. “I am fully aware of the disgrace I brought to the game.”
He dodged jail but received one year of probation, which carried 100 hours of community service and a temporary ban from all MLB stadiums.
Pagan is not shunning baseball from his life entirely. While he recently received a salaried job with a recycling company, Pagan has dedicated more time to amateur baseball, specifically the Burlington Bulls, an under-21 team in Canada.
No longer at the forefront of baseball fans’ minds, Pagan continues to try to re-patch his life together in privacy or, as he describes it, “[become] the person I was in the first 41 years of my life … because this is the person I am — not a drunk beer tosser brought down by Twitter.”