Hey Baseball: When Are You Going to Get Your Act Together Around Safety?

By: | August 9, 2019

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

July 3, 2019. Great night to be a dad and to be taking your child to a baseball game. After driving down I-95 and into Wilmington, Del., my son and I settled into our seats at a Wilmington Blue Rocks game.

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And what’s not to love about a minor league baseball atmosphere? The goofball promotions, the close-to-the-game feeling … all at an affordable price.

My son had his hot dog and his French fries. I had a cold can of a local microbrew.

It was about the third inning when it happened. A batter sent a curving line drive, foul, just past the netting that ran part way up the first base side of the field.

The ball struck a young attendee in the head. I saw the unfortunate soul convulsing in the shock of a painful and possibly dangerous head injury.

My son and I were behind the netting that backs home plate. I wasn’t close enough to determine the gender of the injured party.

Ushers and policemen came to the aid of the injured person. The injured fan left the stadium in the arms of a police officer.

That’s all I know at this point — and might ever know — because my request to the Wilmington Police Department for more information under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act was denied.

July 20, 2019. Another night. Another baseball game.

This time we went to see the Reading “Fightin” Phils when they played New Hampshire. Daddy has his beer, his son has his hot dog and his French fries.

Another foul ball. This one to the third base side. Arching higher than the Wilmington line drive, this one flies past the home plate netting, over the modest third base-side netting and smashes into the mouth of a middle-aged woman in some seats further back from ours.

It was a hot night, and I can still see the red blood as it streamed from her mouth, painting her lips and lower jaw. A towel to her face, suffering plenty, in pain and probably embarrassed, this baseball fan left the stadium under her own power.

Two injuries. Both fully preventable, taken in by one baseball fan in the course of 17 days.

Baseball, what are you doing? Or not doing is more to the point.

Extending netting the full length of the first and third base sides of every baseball stadium is the right thing to do. But it’s not getting done.

After the woman in Reading was injured, the blood so visible on that hot July night, children in the stands next to us ran to their mothers and cowered in their laps. Several of them asked if they were next to get hit by foul balls.

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I ask you, baseball, is this how you want to build your brand? Do you really want to be shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Eh, they sat in an unprotected area, sorry they suffered brain damage.”

Arguments that netting “obstructs” the view from the better seats closer to the field are canards. Baseball is an easy game to follow while safely behind netting. Yeah, I know, you print warnings on the back of tickets saying if you don’t sit behind the existing netting, it’s no harm, no foul from a liability standpoint.

That position just doesn’t hold water and deserves to be dynamited by plaintiffs’ attorneys.

From whence this moral paralysis on the part of team owners that they won’t extend the netting to the foul poles of not just the Wilmington Blue Rocks and the Reading Fightin’ Phils, but in every stadium? &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]