On June 5, Giants rookie Tyler Beede had a bad game. He gave up six runs in just five innings of work on the way to a loss against the Mets. And yet he did not have the worst time at the ballpark that day. Instead, a dad named Alex Swanson, who was almost blinded, clearly had the worse day. But, he wasn’t hit by a fly ball, instead, he was the victim of an errant T-shirt cannon which blasted a tightly-wrapped, wearable projectile directly into his face. Seriously. According to a lawsuit Swanson filed against the Mets, he suffered a concussion and severe eye trauma, including an almost completely severed retina.
As Swanson tells it, he headed down to the railing as Citi Field staff got into position for one of their regular in-game features: the T-shirt launch, in which fresh-faced team employes throw and fire T-shirts into the stands. Swanson went down to the railing at the front of his section to get in a better position to catch a shirt.
There, he says he noticed one of the T-shirt shooters struggling with his contraption. The shooter lowered the muzzle to diagnose the issue. It was pointed it directly at Swanson’s face the moment a shirt inadvertently came flying out and smacking Swanson, who was sitting just 20 feet away, in the eye.
Usually, the shooters aim a full cannon blast into the air so that the shirt arcs down into the crowd, a method that shows off the impressive power of the cannon without putting any fans in danger. Those sitting closer to the field get shirts chucked at this the old-fashioned way, a soft toss, from one of the unarmed members of the T-shirt distribution crew.
Unfortunately, things did not go to plan that day, and Swanson says that he continues to suffer as a result of his injuries.
“I still have floaters — little black specks — over my cornea,” he said. “The doctor says the retina could detach at any moment.”
But despite his own injuries, Swanson says his lawsuit, which does not have a dollar amount attached as of yet, is motivated more by the fact that the team continues to use the cannons.
“It bothers me because it could have hit a little kid. I don’t know why they use them anymore.”
Swanson joins Jennifer Harughty, a Houston-area woman who is suing the Astros. She claims the Orbit, the team mascot, fired a shirt out of a cannon and hit her in the hand during a game last season. Instead of an eye injury, Harughty says she broke her finger, necessitating two surgeries, physical therapy, and pain, swelling, and loss of range of motion that has yet to abate.