Odds of catching 2 long shots not as high as you think

It was Shaun Dean's lucky day at Minute Maid Park on Sunday.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Dean, of Porter, Texas, did more than catch the game-winning home-run ball hit by Chris Burke in the Houston Astros' dramatic 7-6 NLDS series-clinching victory over the Atlanta Braves, an 18-inning, six-hour epic.

Ten innings earlier, with the Astros down 6-1, Dean caught Lance Berkman's grand slam to the left-field seats to close the gap to 6-5.

"It came right at me," Dean, 25, told the Chronicle. "I just reached over and caught it."

On catching Burke's solo shot: "It was all just a blur ... [it] came more toward my father-in-law, and he just leaned over and I reached down and caught it."

After the Burke homer, "an usher came down and talked to me," Dean told the paper, saying that the Astros normally compensate fans who return special home-run balls to the players who hit them.

Dean, who caught the home run balls approximately three hours apart, reportedly said he probably would give the ball to Burke.

"Everyone was congratulating me, patting me on the back," Dean told the paper. "I had several people say I should buy a lottery ticket or go to Vegas."

The odds of catching two home run balls are not as tough as one would think.

Brad Efron, the chairman of the department of statistics at Stanford University, told ESPN.com that the odds in this particular case are in between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 5,000.

"Of the 43,000 people there, there are actually only a couple thousand people in the ballpark who can catch a homerun ball," Efron said. "So the odds are not as astronomical."

In Minute Maid Park, there are only 763 seats in left field. Considering that there are 3,903 seats in right field, only about 10 percent of the crowd is in position to catch a home run ball.

Dean told ESPN.com that he will be at the Astros practice in Houston on Friday and has been promised tickets to Game 3 on Saturday. He said he will give the balls back to the team, but doesn't know what he will get in exchange. Said Dean: "A radio station in St. Louis offered me $20 for the pair."

Information from ESPN.com's Darren Rovell was used in this report.