By Ken Reed
At League of Fans, part of our mission statement is “to encourage safety … in sports industry and culture.”
As such, I would be negligent if I didn’t address the recent incident in Major League Baseball (MLB) in which a 4-year-old girl was struck and injured by a line drive off Albert Almora Jr.’s bat in a game between the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. Almora Jr. was visibly shaken at home plate after the incident. He kneeled down crying and had to be consoled.
A few days later (this past Saturday), a little boy was struck by a line drive foul ball at a minor league baseball game at Victory Field in Indianapolis. The boy was sitting down the first base line. He was treated by on-site EMT personnel and then taken out of the stadium on a gurney, while on his way to the hospital.
“I [saw] the dad come in and pick him up, but I didn’t see him talking or crying. They carried him up into the pavilion. Then a couple of minutes later I could hear him screaming,” said Tonya Lipscomb who was at the game. “It was horrifying, it was traumatizing and scary.”
Major League Baseball positions itself as an organization providing great family entertainment. As such, MLB can’t have little girls and boys being beaned by baseballs traveling upwards of 100 mph during a family outing at the ballpark. Or, 84-year-old grandmothers and grandfathers. Or, any fan, for that matter.
It’s a simple fix. Major League Baseball (as well as its minor league baseball affiliates) needs to simply extend the protective netting from behind home plate, passed the dugouts, down to each of the foul poles — or at least halfway.
After another small child was hit by a foul ball two years ago behind the third base dugout at a Yankees game, MLB required protective netting that stretched between the far ends of each dugout in every MLB stadium. That was a smart move. It has undoubtedly prevented a lot of fan injuries at MLB ballparks.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that based on the recent incidents in Houston and Indianapolis, the netting currently doesn’t go far enough.
Jana Brody, lost her mother Linda Goldbloom, last year after Goldbloom was stuck by a foul ball in a section that didn’t have protective netting. She died from a brain hemorrhage. Brody calls MLB’s failure to extend protective netting as “unconscionable.”
Anyone who saw the sickening and heart-wrenching video of the little girl getting hit in Houston — and Almora’s reaction — had to feel at least somewhat the same way.
MLB franchises are reluctant to put up more netting in front of expensive seats for fear fans will complain about not having a clear view. However, protective netting, or screens, are nothing new at baseball games. Backstops, often made of chain link fencing at lower levels, are nearly as old as baseball itself. Fans adapt to the protective measures.
Some of the most expensive seats in every stadium are directly behind home plate, where patrons have always had to look through protective netting to see the action. Those seats rarely go empty despite top-dollar pricing.
I recently was fortunate enough to sit 15 rows behind home place at a Major League Baseball game. After a couple minutes I didn’t even notice the protective netting. The view was outstanding.
“It’s ridiculous that it takes a 4-year-old girl getting hit in the face for us to have this conversation,” says Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta. “It’s just so unfortunate. I have two kids. Almora has kids. Nobody wants to see something like this happen.”
Of course not. And it doesn’t have to keep happening. Just extend the protective netting down the lines.
Hey MLB honchos, if you want to provide wholesome family entertainment then start doing all you can do to make sure little kids don’t get nailed by hard, screaming orbs.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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