Last night, the New York Yankees played host to the Minnesota Twins. A young girl was at the game with her grandparents, but the night of family fun took a tragic turn when she was struck in the face by a line drive foul hit by the Yankees’ Todd Frazier and clocked at 105 mph. The extent of the little girl’s injuries are currently unknown, but one thing is for certain: this incident could have been avoided if the protective netting at Yankee Stadium had been extended to keep fans safe.
Watching a young child suffer such a devastating and unnecessary injury has reignited the debate as to why so many MLB stadiums don’t have the correct netting to keep fans safe from the foul balls and fractured bats that wind up in the stands. While every sporting event presents its own unique dangers for spectators, none can compare with baseball: Every season, it is estimated that “roughly 1,750 fans a year are injured due to batted balls at all of the Major League Baseball stadiums.”
Protective netting is proven to reduce the number of fan injuries significantly, but many stadiums only have it behind home plate, not along the first and third baselines. Only 10 teams, including teams, like the Phillies and Mets, finally introduced extended netting at the beginning of this season. Were Yankee Stadium to have had extended netting in place, this little girl wouldn’t have been struck.
After the game, several players voiced their support of better net protection for fans, including a visibly shaken Frazier, Frazier appeared to be holding back tears as he explained that the event was extra emotional for him because the young girl appeared to be the around the same age of his two children. Yankees All-Star Aaron Judge and Twins second baseman Brian Dozier also said they felt the current net protection is not acceptable.
“One, you don’t bring kids down there or two, every stadium needs to have nets. That’s it,” said Dozier. “I don’t care about the damn view of the fan. It’s all about safety. I still have knots in my stomach.”
So if everyone agrees that extended netting would be safer, why do so many stadiums still only have netting set up to protect fans immediately behind home plate? According to commissioner Rob Manfred, different designs for stadiums has proven to be a major hurdle for making extended netting a requirement. Here’s a solution: just do it. There’s also concern about the nets causing obstructed views for fans sitting in those coveted seats. That, however, is not an issue.
Hopefully, this terrible and easily avoidable event forces Major League Baseball to realize that it needs to take the safety of its fans more seriously. Thankfully, the girl’s father says she’s in good spirits. “She knows she got hit by a baseball,” he told the New York Daily News. “She’s just happy they hit home runs.”