It's a beautiful day in New York City. A great day to go to a baseball game. You head out to the Bronx with your family. Yankee Stadium. The Yankees vs the Minnesota Twins. Who would have thought that your day would end up in a hospital because your toddler daughter was hit in the head with a baseball?
Unimaginable, right? But that's what happened last Wednesday. It's a scene that plays out at baseball games more often than you think.
A study shows that there are approximately ninety foul balls hit in each game. It doesn't state how many of them end up in the stands but if we take a low percentage of 33% that's about thirty chances someone will be hit by a foul ball at every game. And it does happen at every game. In 2016, more than fifteen hundred spectators were hit by foul balls. You only hear about it when there's an incident like what occurred last week.
Major League Baseball's way of telling people to be aware is to post a warning in small print on your ticket. When was the last time you read that warning? Have you ever read that warning? It also serves to indemnify them against being sued for injuries due to foul balls and broken bats. It's worked so far. No one has ever won a case against MLB over being hit by a foul ball.....so far. So people, you're on your own.
MLB tells you should be aware of your surroundings. Keep your eyes open at all times. On every single pitch you're in danger if you aren't watching. The problem is most games last more than three hours. It's hard, if not impossible to watch intently for that long a time. When you add in people talking to friends, looking at cell phones, finding other things to check out at the park and lots of alcohol, you're going to miss at least a pitch or two. It's just enough to put yourself in danger.
Then there's the ball. MLB juiced the ball this season. The insides are strung a little tighter. It's one of the reasons that home runs are up at a record rate this year. It's also the one of the reasons that the ball hit by Yankee player Todd Frazier traveled at 105 miles per hour. When a ball hit that hard hits a small girl in the head, it's only a miracle that her injury wasn't worse.
Sports teams are usually slow to act. They are rarely proactive. The National Hockey League put up netting to protect their fans sitting behind the goals. Too bad it took the death of a spectator getting hit by a puck for them to do that. MLB now requires their baseline coaches to wear helmets when they're on the field. It took the death of a minor league coach after getting hit by a ball for them to make the move.
The scene at Yankee Stadium was surreal. The game was stopped for five minutes. Players were watching the girl. Some were on their knees in prayers. Others were in tears. Emotions were running high.
Since then a few teams announced they'll be installing protective netting. Most teams are studying this now and trying to decide if safety trumps the "baseball experience". The seats that are in danger the most tend to be the most expensive. Teams won't want to lose that money if those fans feel the screen takes away from their enjoyment of the game. Hopefully they'll decide that safety is more important but don't be surprised if it comes down to money.
Until then, if you're at a baseball game, be aware. Be very aware.
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