By Ken Reed
I have to admit, the few times I’ve been lucky enough to sit in box seats a few rows behind a Major League Baseball (MLB) team’s dugout, I’ve truly enjoyed the proximity to the field and the wide open view.
I haven’t felt the need to call on MLB to erect more protective netting — at least to the end of each dugout. My thought has always been that people know — or should know — the risk of sitting that close to the batter’s box.
However, I’ve changed my tune. There have been too many ugly and sad incidents of fans — from toddlers to senior citizens — getting hit by line drive foul balls or bats that slipped out of batters’ hands. It’s time for every baseball stadium — including those at the college and minor league levels — to have protective netting extended from the back stop to the end of each team’s dugout — and probably farther.
“There is a safer way,” wrote Geoffrey Jacobson in a statement. Jacobson is the father of a two-year old girl struck in the face by a foul ball at a New York Yankees home game this year.
“A way where a 2-year-old girl doesn’t end up in a hospital bed, a way that people don’t get hit with bats and balls, a way where people don’t leave a game on a stretcher.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Jacobson added, “You just don’t want it to happen again,” he said.
“No one should have to go through that. It’s a game. It’s like taking your kids to the mall or the amusement park, to the zoo — it’s an activity. It shouldn’t be a place where you could die, and it doesn’t have to be. I get the reasoning and the pressure, but it’s senseless.”
It is senseless. A relatively small percentage of fans attending games are diehard baseball fans that intently watch every pitch. In most cases, those fans can probably protect themselves from flying objects. However, for most fans, even those who love baseball, going to a game is an entertainment and social event, a time to enjoy conversations with friends and family. Eyes aren’t always on the field.
Sure, some fans who pay a hefty price to sit close to the field are going to complain about netting being placed in their sight lines. Nevertheless, for franchise owners, safety must take precedence over revenue at all costs.
In light of a handful of serious injuries to fans this season, the Yankees and a few other MLB teams have said they planned to extend the safety netting down each foul line next year. Yet, many MLB franchises have yet to commit to such a policy. It needs to happen in every ballpark.
“The problem is that the economics of safety ignore that it’s somebody’s daughter or son in a hospital or worse,” wrote Jacobson.
“People have been turned into statistics and probabilities so that fans can have a better view or seats can be sold for a higher price, and everyone believes they are safe and nothing bad will happen until it does.”
Sadly, there’s plenty of proof from this season that preventable bad things do happen.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.