Yesterday, during the Yankees’ 11-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins, a young child was hit in the face with a foul ball. She was tended to by the medical staff, and then rushed to the hospital. As of last night, the father of the child who was hit said they still weren’t sure if she would require surgery. It’s time to stop this.
We can’t avoid what has already happened, but we can prevent the next incident from taking place by doing what we all know is right. It’s time for Yankee Stadium to add protective netting extending down the first and third base lines, and it’s time to do it now. This isn’t a question about the enjoyment of the game, or possibly interfering with the view, this is about survival. This is about going to see a baseball game and not having to worry about getting seriously injured or killed by a flying projectile.
People like to make excuses and say that fans need to pay attention so they can dodge the ball. People like to blame the victim when bad things happen because it’s easier to blame the person right in front of you than the faceless corporation that is responsible for exposing us to unsafe conditions. Even the players know this is bullshit.
Chase Headley told the New York Post, “there’s no chance. It’s scary. We’re praying for the kid and hope for the best, but there’s nothing you can do when it’s coming at you that fast. I don’t think the average person understands how fast those things are coming. To have to see that, for me, it’s sickening.” Chase Headley, a professional baseball player, believes that it’s impossible to expect fans to dodge balls at such high velocities, and we should all believe him.
When baseball added netting in front of all major league dugouts, it did so because the league determined that not even professional baseball players could get out of the way of flying bats and balls. To think that fans have any better of a chance is just a complete detachment from reality. It also shows that clubs are more interested in protecting their assets than their own fans.
It’s not like this is a singular incident, or even that uncommon at this point. In May, a young boy was hit in the head with a piece of bat. In July, a man was hit by a ball clocked at 105 MPH. Both were left bloodied and both were in Yankee Stadium.
Every time a high profile incident like this happens, we talk about expanding the netting, the media talks about expanding the netting, and baseball says all the right things and does nothing. In May, the Yankees said they would explore options, but nothing has been done, and here we are.
For some reason, baseball—and society—is extremely reactionary with regards to safety. No one wants to think about protection until it’s too late and the damage has already been done. Even this article is reactionary. It’s like we’re collectively waiting for someone to die on the altar before we try to do anything to improve things. Before they moved, the Braves had several people fall from the upper deck due to low railings, which was a continuous problem. The Texas Rangers waited until a fan fell to his death before they fixed a very clear safety hazard.
The commissioner of baseball likes to say they are talking about it, and that the difficulty in crafting a universal policy is the unique dimensions of each ballpark, but we all know that’s just only part of it. The problem is that certain teams will have to spend more money than other teams to be compliant with whatever rule they come up with, and these owners can’t be bothered to invest in something as unnecessary as safety. This isn’t unique to baseball.
The thing is, league-wide policy or not, safety needs to be a concern to every team in baseball and every fan in the stands. People getting hurt is simply bad for everyone involved. Teams like the Yankees need to stop dragging their feet and just do the right thing for once.
It’s not even like protective netting would be that unique of a feature at this point. The Mets just put up netting at Citi Field this summer. Netting has also been added in Atlanta, Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Texas, and Washington. You don’t hear anyone complaining about the quality of the view now, do you?
Like any major business, the Yankees have done a lot of shady things over the years, but let’s not make this one more. Safety is not something any organization should take lightly. If MLB isn’t going to act, the Yankees need to step up and do the right thing. Fans who are against it can deal with it until they even forget it’s there. Otherwise, the next little girl might not make it out of the ballpark.