It’s long past due for a common-sense change at all Major League Baseball (MLB) stadiums: install safety netting across all lower-deck seating.
On May 29, Chicago Cubs player Albert Almora Jr. lined a foul ball into the stands along the third-base line at the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park.
The ball struck a 4-year-old girl, sending her to the hospital. Almora was left in tears, embracing a security guard after being told the girl would be OK.
He said the girl was the first person he locked eyes on after he hit the ball.
Before the start of the season, all 30 MLB teams were required to install netting around home plate, but the netting does not cover all the lower decks in any stadium. Why not? The players support it, proposing in collective-bargaining agreements in 2007 and 2012 that netting extend from foul pole to foul pole, as it does in stadiums in Japan.
However, stadiums have been left to install netting at the owners’ discretion outside of the new requirement.
At Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, the nets span 21 sections.
At Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, the nets extend across 17 sections, to the outfield edge of each dugout.
According to Statcast, Almora’s foul ball traveled 160 feet in 1.2 seconds. So, even if adult fans are paying close attention to the game, it only leaves previous seconds to react to a baseball speeding at them. There are thousands of children attending games, and stadiums try to entertain fans with distractions such as games on the Jumbotron and concession vendors walking up and down the aisles.
A fan watching a game at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stadium died four days after being struck by a foul ball, and the coroner ruled the cause of death as acute intracranial hemorrhage from blunt-force trauma.
Fans love to get as close to the action as possible, and pro franchises love to find new ways to accommodate them—and charge hefty prices for admission.
The least those franchises can do is keep fans safe.
The National Hockey League didn’t install safety netting until 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil was struck and killed by a puck in 2002.
Rob Manfred, MLB commissioner, said he didn’t expect teams to expand their netting this season, but he will examine the issue further in the offseason. He also said fans have been “vocal” about not wanting to sit behind netting.
Unfortunately, sometimes people need to be protected from themselves.