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 Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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