Nothin’ But Net

“But Howell, the Orioles fan, said: ‘This is not an issue of fans not paying attention to the game. To be able to react in an instant to a broken bat or a line-drive foul coming at you at 100 miles per hour? That’s why major leaguers get paid millions of dollars. They can do that. Most fans can’t.’” ~ The Baltimore Sun, 7/13/2019

This weekend, the Baltimore Orioles announced they would extend the protective netting at Camden Yards from the dugouts to the foul poles. They are one of just a few teams who are proactively addressing fan safety with this decision.

(The Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, and Washington Nationals have also announced they will extend netting to the foul poles.)

The Baltimore Sun, 7/13/2019

I was included in The Baltimore Sun’s story on this decision and I appreciated having a chance to add my “two cents.”

You can read it here.

Since then, I’ve seen the blowback the team has received from some fans.

Well.

The Baseball Bloggess has a few more cents to add.

***

In 2018, sitting at a college baseball game just beyond first base, a line drive foul  ball came hot off a player’s bat. In what seemed like just two seconds, it hit Denise, the woman who always sits on the aisle in the row in front of us. It broke her wrist. Her son was a player on the team. She was, I promise you, paying attention.

***

This spring, sitting at a college baseball game in the same seats as always, another line drive foul came hot off of a player’s bat. Editor/Husband quickly leaned right so the ball just grazed his shoulder – instead of his head. It smacked the wall several rows behind us and bounced back hard onto the concrete just a few feet from me. We were, I promise you, paying attention.

I still have the ball – and Editor/Husband. 

“Hmmm … this stitching seems different.”

Dear Baltimore Orioles,

This weekend you announced that you will proactively extend the current protective netting from the dugouts to the foul poles.

You should be recognized for your efforts to ensure a safe experience for fans. You should be recognized for acknowledging what 24 other teams have yet to acknowledge, that the speed and force of baseballs today make foul balls – and broken bats – far more dangerous than they were just a few years ago.

Instead, there seems to be some crybabies on social media mocking you for this, complaining about it, and generally being jerks. (I wanted to use a word much stronger than “jerks,” but Editor/Husband appealed to my kinder side.)

You did something decent. Something necessary.

I have a few things to say to those people who are trashing the Orioles about this.

Dear You People,

Yes, sporting events have risks – to the players and the fans. But, why not try to minimize those risks when possible?

Injuries to fans are not a new development in baseball.

Errant foul balls have killed fans right from baseball’s beginnings.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9/4/1928

In 1928 at a semi-pro game in Utica, New York, a father was injured by his own son’s foul ball. He was taken to the hospital, patched up, and returned to see his son finish the game. He died of his injuries the next day.

The Des Moines Register, 5/15/1939

A foul ball off of future Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller in 1939 hit his mother above her eye and sent her to the hospital. On Mother’s Day.

So, agreed. There has always been a risk of injuries.

There’s lots of risk in this world. Shouldn’t we try to mitigate those risks when we can?

Diptheria, a bacterial infection, was one of the leading causes of death in the early 20th century. Today, a vaccine has nearly eradicated the disease in the United States.

See what we do? We try to improve quality of life for everyone. We try to protect people.

And, if that means protecting a kid from getting hit in the face by a line-drive foul ball coming off a bat at more than 100 mph, then shouldn’t that be what we do?

Wait. Are you still arguing with me? Ok, sure, you won’t be able to rudely elbow the people next to you, dump your beer and nachos on the fans sitting in front of you as you lunge wildly for a foul, and then dance around like a marionette when you catch it. Yeh, I’m really sorry for you.

Mascots will be protected, too!

Some argue that fans need to pay more attention to the game; it’s our responsibility to ensure our own safety. This “blame the victim” mentality is just your way of convincing yourself that it could never happen to you, because you always pay attention. It could happen to you.

Line drive fouls coming at you at 100 miles per hour and shattered bats are no joke and, I hate to tell you this, but you’re not as fast as you think you are.

Your fan experience isn’t going to be ruined by protective netting. Your view isn’t going to be that obscured. (If netting was so intrusive no one would sit in the seats behind home plate, right?) If you want to see everything clearly, why not think twice before you buy that fifth beer?

Players have already figured out that they can still toss balls over the netting to fans between innings.

The Nationals are installing netting that can be lifted before games so that kids can still interact with players and get autographs.

Bleacher seats and Baltimore’s “flag court” are still primo spots for catching a home run ball, if that’s so important to you.

Teams and players will figure out ways to continue the interactive connection between the game and fans.

And, you know what? One day you’ll be sitting at a game and a foul ball will smack the netting close to where you are. And, your face won’t be broken. And, your child won’t be badly injured. And, you won’t drop your beer and nachos on the people in front of you. See? Everybody wins!

So now, Orioles, back to you. And, the netting. Thank you for doing the right thing.

Oh, and P.S. Thank you for winning a game yesterday.

Gratefully Yours, The Baseball Bloggess

18 thoughts on “Nothin’ But Net

  1. Reblogged this on Season of the Pitch and commented:
    Jackie writes a really great Baseball (and Orioles) blog. And she’s right about this. I’ve never been hit, but it’s come close on occasion. Besides, who can afford to sit in the front row anymore?

  2. Wow, quoted in a newspaper. Members of my family have shown up in the local paper a few times, generally with phrases like “liquor on his breath” or “slurred speech” (so no quotes).

    It’s time MLB addressed this issue. My son was almost hit once at a Minor League game. Fortunately I had quicker hands back then than I do now. I knocked it away. If I’d caught it the team might have signed me (they were awful at the time).
    v

    • Thanks, v. The Baltimore Sun reaches out to me on occasion — I guess I’m a spokesperson for the average fan. That, and I’m always happy to have an opinion.

      And, sometimes I’m watching the game intently and I still lose sight of a foul ball against the sky. The one that grazed Randy spooked me for the rest of the season.

  3. When I read about people objecting to safety netting I recall the idiots who complained about seat belts in cars. If not for themselves, those safety net complainers ought to think about the impact on the player whose ball or bat has injured or killed a fan. ‘Nuf said.

    • I thought about including a photo of Albert Almora, Jr. of the Cubs as he watched the child that was injured by a foul ball off his bat last month. His face is a heartbreaking mix of horror, panic, and devastation. The players seem to support this move … I hope Major League Baseball will mandate it for all stadiums.

  4. I do agree on the extended netting. Just a necessity for safety. Remember the constant hockey glass breakage- they figured that out. And the Orioles are figuring out the player/fan interaction. No reason to not do it. Rockies, you listening?

  5. Congratulations on your rational (& apparently influential) input! 😉. Given the increased strength of today’s players, the throw-back coziness of the ballparks, the difference in the ball (saw Pedro Martinez demonstrate how he couldn’t grip a current pitch the same way as one with a ball from his era), and, yes, the myriad distractions of the current games, this initiative only makes sense. And that’s not even discussing the potential legal liability & possible serious injuries which can be prevented at relatively low cost. I have been hit by a foul ball (fortunately not going too fast) because I lost it in the lights. That was embarrassing, but educational – my siblings saw its path and said nothing as they dove out of harm’s way at the last moment. So paying attention isn’t always the answer. An uptick for the O’s organization.

    • When it’s a line-drive foul, you truly have just 2 seconds of “react time.” When we were at an O’s game a few weeks ago, we were behind some of the new dugout-area netting and the usher was very nice … he was explaining to everyone that the new netting will protect you from a line drive, but you still have to watch out for the pop fouls. I’m not sure everyone understood the difference, but no one got hurt!

  6. A player lost control of his bat and it landed 3 rows in front of me, striking a fan who insisted they weren’t hurt. The player climbed up on the dugout and went up to the fan and apologized. Long story short, players want fans to have protection too. If it can happen at a Class A game in North Dakota, it can happen ..and has…anywhere.

  7. I’ll admit, I was one of those guys who grumbled about extending the netting, and fans not paying attention- then, in Oakland, playing against the Giants, somebody hit a line drive foul, headed right at my first base seat. I had about one second to figure out where it was, and get out of the way. I couldn’t. I lost it in the crowd, and it missed me by what seemed like a few feet. I swear, it made a hissing sound, as it went by, hitting a seat with a loud “whack”.
    So, now I know that, even if I see the ball come off the bat, unless I’m sitting in the bleachers I’m not gonna have time to react, even if I can see the ball. I’m not a Golden Glove infielder. Got it.
    String up the netting, already. I’m convinced.

    • The new netting will affect just a small additional part of the park — from the dugouts to the foul poles. So, upper decks, left field line, right field/bleachers are unaffected, home plate to the dugouts are already netted. Maybe these are just people who complain about everything. But, “kind of crazy” … indeed.

      • In my kinder moments, I think you’re right about who those people are. In my less kind (and more common) moments, I figure they’re the same people who refuse to have their kids vaccinated. It is, after all, the same state of mind: “My opinion is the only one that matters, though it has nothing to do with logic, science, or anything else rational.” And has similar results when the inevitable occurs.

        Ahem. Sorry. Hobby horse.

        Anyway, yes. After seeing a fan hurt by a foul ball over the Fourth of July weekend, even though they was sitting in a nominally protected seat (yep, pop foul), count me as “pro-extended netting”. We need all the help we can get to stay safe out there.

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