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posted: 9/23/2017 2:00 PM

Editorial: Cubs, White Sox, MLB must extend netting

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  • Baseball fans react as a young girl receives emergency attention after being hit by a line drive Wednesday at Yankee Stadium in New York.

    Baseball fans react as a young girl receives emergency attention after being hit by a line drive Wednesday at Yankee Stadium in New York.
    AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

  • A young girl is carried out of the seating area at Yankee Stadium in New York after being hit by a line drive off the bat of third baseman Todd Frazier, who was visibly shaken by her injury.

    A young girl is carried out of the seating area at Yankee Stadium in New York after being hit by a line drive off the bat of third baseman Todd Frazier, who was visibly shaken by her injury.
    AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

  • Video: Are fans really safe

  • Video: How baseballs injure fans

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

"I just wanted to cry for this little kid," baseball fan Tom Barton told The New York Times shortly after the girl was hit. "There was so much blood."

The horrific scene played out at Yankee Stadium Wednesday afternoon after former Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier, now with New York, sent a foul ball screaming beyond the seats behind the third base dugout, cracking the young girl in the face at 105 miles per hour.

"There's nothing you can do when it's coming at you that fast," Yankee teammate Chase Headley told the New York Post. "I don't think the average person understands how fast those things are coming. To have to see that, for me, it's sickening."

In the Chicago area, we bask these days in the warmth of the cuddly Cubs making another heroic bid for the postseason. We're captivated by the romance and tradition of the game, the charm of Wrigley Field and the promise of the young White Sox across town.

But at major league ballparks in Chicago and across the country, terrifying and ghastly scenes like Wednesday's take place with unfortunate regularity. Hundreds of fans are injured at the ballgame each year, according to numerous reports.

Worse, Major League Baseball knows about this shameful toll and knows with certainty that it will continue. Baseball is a game of statistics and forecasts based on those statistics. Don't tell us MLB doesn't understand.

And don't tell us that it's the fans' fault, what was the girl doing there, why wasn't the fan paying attention.

As HBO Real Sports well illustrated a year ago, it's almost impossible for close fans to react in time to defend against line fouls, especially if there's the slightest distraction.

Meanwhile, who provides the distractions? The giant video boards and the hot dog vendors and the beer?

Regardless, mistakes and misjudgements by the fans don't absolve MLB of its negligence.

The league has moved too slowly to solve a solvable problem.

And it has not been held accountable by government and the courts. It pays nothing when a fan is hurt, clinging to the waivers printed on its tickets.

The response has been unconscionable. What business would treat its customers this way?

A year ago, major league teams showed some movement, extending the protective netting behind home to the inner edge of the dugout. Some extended the nets even more.

In the wake of Wednesday's tragic injury, several teams, the Cubs and Sox among them, said they would explore the idea of expanding the protective netting farther.

Exploration is not enough. It's time for all ballparks in MLB to extend the netting from foul pole to foul pole.

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