It took a 105-mph heat-seeking missile off the bat of New York Yankee third-baseman Todd Frazier over the third base dugout, a shot that landed on the fragile face of a 2-year-old child, for Major League Baseball to finally reach a consensus that fan safety at baseball games is of utmost importance. For this to ultimately act as the fire starter that whips Major League Baseball into shape, this must undoubtedly be a new low.
While fan safety at Sonoma State University baseball games is a non-issue due to the protective netting that encompasses the stands behind home plate and slightly down the lines – it is the unchanging temples like Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, and 16 other Major League ballparks that are in dire need of all-around safety improvements.
Prior to the Sept. 20 incident, only 10 teams – the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, and Minnesota Twins – had previously taken the necessary steps to extend the safety netting from behind home plate to foul ball hot-zones such as the first and third base dugouts. Following the episode at Yankee Stadium that saw players knelt in prayer, with heads in hands, hoping that everything would be alright with the toddler – the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and Seattle Mariners have all pledged to provide better safety around their respective stadiums. Although commendable that these four teams have decided to take a stand, this does not absolve them of their prior transgressions, as they only decided to make this promise once something horrific took place.
As decades have now gone by without significant improvements to fan safety, an estimated 2,500 people each year leave the park with some sort of serious injury – whether it be from a foul ball, broken bat or some other freak accident. Perhaps a faction of those 2,500 people were too distracted by their smartphones to keep their eyes on the field, or possibly became too inebriated after indulging themselves in an undue amount of $12 beers to recognize that a live game had been going on right before their eyes – yes, these things do happen. To those people, viewing a game from the comfort of their couch might be the best option to remain injury-free. But, for the others who innocently wind up wounded from a trip to the ballpark, you aren’t to blame for this neglectful treatment you received. For only one-third of the league to engage in improved safety efforts, the other two-thirds are asleep, slow to act with such blatant disregard for the most essential piece of their operation – the fans.
In light of this, each year that passes by, fans continue to shell out obscene amounts of money just to obtain the best view of home plate, but only in certain locations – mainly behind the dish – are they guarded from errant throws, soaring lumber, and scorching foul balls. For the money, one might expect great emphasis is put on fan safety, but apparently this matter is unimportant to 70 percent of the league – further inviting more opportunities for velocious, aimless circular projectiles to strike more young children in the face, similar to the one that collided with a pint-sized 2-year-old girl at Yankee Stadium. As a result of this unfortunate circumstance, the lack of protective netting along the first and third base lines is inexcusable, and, in all honesty, morally repugnant. It is every organization’s obligation to keep those in attendance out of harm’s way, but to continue to allow such carelessness to go on, Major League Baseball should be ashamed of itself and do everything in its power to right their wrongs – before the impending wrath of the internet does it first. It’s not too late.
Now, change in baseball is difficult to achieve, and has been since the game came into existence long ago. Die-hard fans will scoff at the idea of any changes to do with their field view, and rightfully so, as a significant amount of them pay premium figures for those seats. With that being said, the idea of requiring every Major League organization to extend the existing netting from behind home plate, past the dugouts, and possibly to the foul poles, is far from the most popular idea among purists who prefer an unobstructed view of the action. But, if the view is more important than the safety of parents, grandparents, and children, maybe fans need a reality check to better understand that lives are more significant than an unobstructed view of a game. So, the next time you decide to attend the historical AT&T Park, or any other baseball stadium for that matter, keep in mind that a small child’s life was nearly ended instantly with a single 105 mph crack of the bat. As a result of this chance, it’s important to stay alert and pay attention to what may be happening on the field.