In the fourth inning of last night’s game between the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, a young girl sitting on the third base side of Minute Maid Park was struck by a foul ball, sending her to the hospital. Despite improving safety netting at stadiums over the past two years, this latest injury shows the MLB still has plenty of work to do when it comes to fan safety.
After the injury, the game was briefly paused and Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr., who hit the ball, was visibly distraught, dropping to his knees as his teammates tried to console him. Later in the game, Almora tried to find the young girl in hopes of making sure she was alright and ended up crying in the arms of a security guard nearby.
“I had to try to keep my composure during that at-bat, but when that half-inning was over, I just couldn’t hold it anymore,” Almora said.
Of course, Almora should not be blaming himself for what happened and, fortunately, it appears that the young girl is not suffering from any serious injuries. However, that doesn’t mean that the MLB should simply move on without examing its own outdated policies, as this horrific and preventable injury is another clear example of why the league needs to do a better job prioritizing fan safety, specifically when it comes to protective netting. After all, it’s estimated that “roughly 1,750 fans a year are injured due to batted balls at all of the Major League Baseball stadiums” and while some injuries may be minor, others can be life-threatening.
Public outcry for extended netting began back in 2017 when a young was hospitalized after being hit in the face by a 105-mph fastball at a Yankees game. The young girl’s eyes were swollen shut and she suffered multiple facial fractures, along with bleeding in her brain. Fans and players alike began to call on teams to extend their protective netting and by Opening Day of the 2018 season, all 30 teams had protective netting installed.
However, many teams still only have their protective netting extend out to the team dugouts, leaving fans in the first and third base lines exposed to foul balls, like the young girl who was injured at last night’s game. So why don’t all stadiums have netting that extends all the way to the outfield? The argument seems to be obstructing views for fans sitting in those coveted seats but idea that extended netting obstructs view is a fallacy. And even if it wasn’t, is getting a better view really worth putting the lives of children at risk?
Hopefully, the MLB takes immediate action towards ensuring that protective netting extends to the foul poles in every stadium. Because while attending any sporting event poses a certain risk for spectators, baseball has always been uniquely dangerous and even deadly for those in attendance. And if changes aren’t made soon, it’s hard to imagine this will be the last time a young fan is needlessly hospitalized.