During yesterdays blowout win by the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins, not everyone on the Yankees was a winner. In the bottom of the fifth Yankees slugger Todd Frazier stroked a rocket foul ball into the stands, however, the result of this foul ball was not ordinary, as it struck a little girl watching the game.
According to statcast the ball was traveling at a speed of 105 mph, making the reaction time to avoid the ball less than a second. This incident is not the first of its kind, but it is one of the more publicized incidents, not just because it was a little girl who got hurt, but because of the effect it had on the players. Frazier was visibly shaken by what happened as he was the one who hit the ball, and some players on the Twins had tears rolling down their faces as they knew how devastating the injury could be.
There has been a movement towards expanding netting in MLB ballparks the past few years, but the progress has been slow. Baseball purists have been trying to hold back from expanding the protective netting, claiming that it obstructs the viewers from a true experience. That belief is completely wrong, as I have sat behind netting multiple times at MLB games and although it is clear that the net is there my view of the game was not obstructed in any way.
In today’s world, a foul ball is much more dangerous than it was 10-15 years ago, as there are more and more distractions popping up every day. People that go to games are not all diehards like myself, so they don’t pay attention to every pitch and that is extremely dangerous depending on where you are sitting.
Line drive foul balls that go down the first and third base lines average a speed of 95 mph, and according to research done by HBO’s Real Sports that gives you less than six-tenths of a second to react if you are 75 feet away from the plate. In most stadiums, you are not protected from that distance, and if you are not careful you could be a victim of a foul ball injury.
Foul balls are dangerous and injuries at MLB games are far too common. According to a 2014 Bloomberg analysis, there are nearly 1,750 foul ball injuries per year at MLB games. That number doesn’t include minor league, semiprofessional, or college games. That number is abnormally high, and something that the MLB should be working hard to reduce, but they really don’t have to.
Although the MLB owners obviously don’t want injuries at their games, the injuries aren’t their problem. When you buy a ticket to a game you agree to knowing you are entering a dangerous environment and that if you are injured while at the game, the organization is not responsible for paying any medical bills you may have.
Some owners have already expanded the netting down well past the third and first base bags and the dugouts as well. Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets is one of the stadiums that has expanded the netting, in order to make the experience in great seats safe. The picture below is a digital version of what the Mets had put in place during this year’s All-Star break.
The nets in Citi Field now extend halfway into the outfield and fans are now virtually safe from any hard hit foul ball. Other stadiums should be copying what the Mets are doing, as fan safety should be the league’s number one priority at this point, especially after yesterdays incident.
We should expect both the Yankees and Twins to announce the expansion of their protective netting as players from both organizations have already stated that expanded netting is necessary.
If the MLB does not come up with a set of parameters that all stadiums need to follow in regards to protective netting this offseason, Commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners should be ashamed of themselves. I don’t think anyone in their right mind believes at this point expansion netting isn’t necessary. What happened yesterday, although extremely sad, will hopefully lead to the league making changes.
The MLB can look at the professional league in Japan as an example of how it should be handled. In Japan, they do not only have netting that is tall and covers the majority of sections in foul territory, but they also have attendants in each section that blow whistles to warn the fans that a ball is coming.
This not only keeps the fans safe, but it also probably keeps the fans more entertained as well. Another thing that the Japan league has to offer, which is really cool is what they call excite seats. These areas are down the first and third base line that has no protective netting, but with the purchase of your seat, you are provided with a baseball glove and a helmet to be ready for a foul ball hit to you. That is something the MLB should consider moving towards in order to appease the fans who think protective netting isn’t necessary.
The MLB is the most competitive baseball league in the world, but it is for sure not the safest, and that has to change.