I generally consider myself a baseball purist.
I’m not a big fan of interleague play. I hate those garish “Players Weekend” uniforms. I usually despise all of Rob Manfred’s ideas on how to improve the game (hello, juiced balls).
There is one thing, however, that Major League Baseball needs to change.
Last week in Houston, a young girl in the stands was struck by a line drive off the bat of the Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. It was hard to watch. The girl was rushed out of the stadium as stunned fans looked on. Almora was shown praying, and many players were visibly shaken on the field.
It was a scene that should never happen at a baseball stadium.
The girl who was hit in Houston is expected to recover, but there are examples of people who weren’t so lucky. Last year, a woman died because of acute intracranial hemorrhage after being struck by a foul ball at Dodger Stadium. In 2011, a fan at Yankee Stadium suffered a damaged left eye socket and fractured cheekbone after being hit by a baseball.
Fans have been at risk attending baseball games from the beginning. The courts say that a fan accepts that danger by purchasing a ticket, and Major League Baseball has been protected legally.
Just because the league can’t be sued for it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t protect its customers.
In 2018, MLB mandated that netting should be extended to the end of each dugout. That was a good first step, but the incident in Houston shows it’s not enough. Nets in every ballpark need to be extended to the foul pole.
I’ve sat behind these nets before. They're barely noticeable.
Enough of the “pay attention to the game” excuse. Even if she had her eyes glued to the game, how is a little girl supposed to dodge a screaming liner? How many pitchers – professionals – have we seen hit by line drives? Sometimes it’s impossible to react.
Also – and again, I say this as a purist – fans shouldn’t be forced to have their eyes glued to every pitch. Baseball has a problem attracting younger fans – the type of people who might, say, look at their phone during an inning. It’s 2019. They should be able to do it safely.
Fans shouldn’t have to worry about ending a day at the ballpark in the hospital. Parents shouldn’t have to worry the safety of their children. What happened the other day in Houston should never happen again.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at [email protected].