The New York Yankees were leading the Minnesota Twins 9-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon in the Bronx. The Yankees’ third baseman Todd Frazier was up at bat when he sent a screaming line drive into the stands above the dugout, striking a young girl in the head.
She was then immediately tended to by medical personnel, escorted out of the stadium and rushed to the hospital. If anyone happened to be watching the game live on television, the disturbed look on every player’s face from both teams when the girl was struck with the foul ball was all it took to understand the severity of the situation at hand.
This incident sparked back up the conversation that every so often reoccurs throughout Major League Baseball — if teams should extend the protective netting that shields fans from rogue balls and bats from behind home base all the way past the dugout.
This precaution would ensure that an almost fatal accident, like the one occurred Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, could not happen again. One might think that this safety precaution would be mandatory for every MLB franchise; however, only 10 out of the 30 Major League teams have their protective netting extended to the end of each dugout or further.
While more and more teams are considering it, they are hesitant on the matter because they do not want to upset their paying customers by obstructing their view. From a business perspective, the stadium owners are nervous that fans will be highly opposed to the change, upset that they have to watch the game through a net or that they have no chance of catching a foul ball.
The MLB has issued recommendations for the extended netting following incidents that have happened in the past but these are not requirements. After the incident on Wednesday, the Commissioner of the MLB, Rob Manfred, released a statement:
“The events at yesterday’s game involving a young girl were extremely upsetting for everyone in our game. Over the past few seasons, MLB has worked with our clubs to expand the amount of netting in our ballparks. In light of yesterday’s event, we will redouble our efforts on this important issue.”
Professional baseball stadiums in Japan have protective netting at every single stadium all the way down the baseline on both sides of the field, and if there is not netting where you are seated, it is encouraged that you wear a helmet. 47 years ago, a young boy was killed by a foul ball being lined hard into the stands at a Dodgers game. On Wednesday, after witnessing the young girl bloody and crying, Todd Frazier and other players could be seen visibly shaken and even tearing up. Eduardo Escobar of the Minnesota Twins said, “A ball like that can kill a kid.”
Instead of making recommendations to the 20 Major League teams that do not have protective netting, the league might want to follow Japan’s league and make it a firm rule so that accidents like these would not even have the opportunity to occur.