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There is no excuse: Baseball needs to extend protective netting

Netting

Todd Fraizer’s reaction says it all. It is simply not worth it.

Frazier was batting in the 5th inning when he yanked a ball foul and the ball proceeded to strike a young girl. Play was put on hold for a few moments while the young fan was tended. Many of the Yankees and Twins players knelt with anguished looks of concern and dread. This is not something that needs to happen.

Manfred is reluctant to enforce his authority

Netting
Rob Manfred is not doing enough to ensure fan safety (CBS Sports)

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Rob Manfred stated, “I think the reluctance to do it on a league-wide basis only relates to the difficulty of having a single rule that fits 30 stadiums that obviously are not designed the same way”.

This blatant disregard for safety demonstrates the problems that the league is facing right now. Is the safety of the fans that pay to watch these teams not worth a slightly obscured view? With all of the money that baseball teams put into their stadiums, is it really not worth it to extend the netting past the dugout so there is no risk of a young girl getting struck by a 100 mph baseball?

Anytime you go to a baseball game you will see and hear the stadium warning fans to pay attention when the ball is in play, which is fair. However, a disclaimer on the back of a ticket doesn’t absolve the team from moral responsibility for protecting their fans. There was nothing that could have been done for that little girl to avoid that ball.

There are 10 teams in the major leagues that have realized that balls hurdling at fans at 100 mph is a problem. Because of that, they have extended the netting beyond the dugout in order to protect fans that are so close to home plate they don’t have time to react.

What is so difficult about that? Who would ever say that architectural design is a reason to not protect fans? That’s right, the commissioner of Major League Baseball would. The game of baseball is so resistant to any sort of change that they will hardly lift a finger to protect a young fan from getting hit by a foul ball.

The players have had enough

Don’t think that the players on the field have any issue with extending the netting. They see on a daily basis how fast these baseballs can go.

Eduardo Escobar of the Minnesota Twins was rattled after yesterday’s incident. He told reporters, “I just saw blood coming out of this girl’s face, a ball like that could have killed a kid…It could have killed her”.

Escobar is right. A ball going that fast can kill someone. Should fans have to worry about that when they buy diamond level seats to a baseball game? Should the players have to worry about striking a fan anytime they hit a ball foul? Absolutely not.

Todd Frazier, the player who hit the foul ball, believes there should be netting up in all stadiums to protect the fans. He emphasized after the game that it is all about safety.

Frazier is right. If the league is concerned about safety enough to put up some simple netting, then why should fans bother to go to the game. Baseballs are flying into the stands every game and in most cases they are good at avoiding the ball. However, one instance of a fan getting hospitalized from a baseball should be enough to warrant netting.

The players have simply had enough. Matt Holliday and Brian Dozier were both in tears when this happened. Dozier called for MLB to extend the netting. There is never going to be a good enough reason to prevent these kind of things from happening.

This is not a new problem

Netting
Fans react to young fan being carried out of the stands (Pioneer Press)

In 2014, Bloomberg did an analysis of foul balls and found that roughly 1,750 fans are struck by foul balls during the regular season. Many of the instances are minor and the fan will usually only walk away with a bruise. It is another story for kids at the ball park though.

According to an article done by the Boston Globe, there was a 2010 incident where a 6-year old girl needed surgery for a shattered skull after being struck at a Braves game by a foul ball. In 2008, a 7-year old needed surgery to relieve brain swelling because of a foul ball.

The same article cites foul ball statistician Edwin Comber, who says 73 percent of all foul balls go into the stands. That may include a pop fly, a long ball down the line, or a grounder that gets scooped up. Every once in a while though there is going to be a scorcher that lines into the stands where you won’t be able to avoid it, no matter how much you are paying attention to the game.

Foul balls aren’t the only problem either. In 2015 a female spectator was carted off due to a broken bat flying into the stands. Bats flying into stands are not nearly as common as the foul balls. However, it is another reason why the netting is necessary.

Hockey is the only other major American sport where projectiles are flying through air at alarming rates. What does the NHL do to protect the fans from these projectiles? They put up boards and netting to ensure their fans safety when attending their events. Simple enough, right? Well, apparently not simple enough for Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball.

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