May 4, 2016

"It’s time for MLB to force teams to expand protective netting before another death at the ballpark."

Argues John Harper at The New York Daily News.
[Teams] know fans are more vulnerable than ever these days, for a variety of reasons: modern ballparks have them sitting closer to the field than ever; pitchers throw harder than ever, which results in harder-hit foul balls; modern, thin-handle bats break more easily sending them flying into the stands; and iPhones at the ballpark, which distract fans from games, are a way of life.
So the people who want to pay attention must look through netting so that the people who want to look at iPhones can have the freedom not to pay attention? And the teams can't even decide for themselves and their fans which group to favor — it ought to be a top-down rule dictated by the MLB?

Good metaphor, by the way.

44 comments:

campy said...

"it ought to be a top-down rule dictated by the MLB?"

Of course not. It ought to be dictated by the federal government.

Tank said...

In "the olden days" I would have felt confident in saying that, "the fans don't want to look through netting." But now, with all the victimology baked in to society, maybe they do. Maybe fans should all wear bike helmets too.

Brando said...

It's not just people not paying attention, though--if you have slow reaction times or are seated somewhere where you can't move away easily, you can still get clonked with a ball. But netting protection and the likelihood of getting hit have to be weighed against the nets blocking your view.

I was at a game with a friend in the upper tier behind home plate, and a foul ball was hit that came right at us. We'd never seen a ball come that way before, so it looked odd--like "where is that thing going?" before realizing it was coming right at us. My friend flapped his arms comically as the ball smacked his seat right between his legs (two inches higher and he would have taken it right in the groin).

Curious George said...

"So the people who want to pay attention must look through netting so that the people who want to look at iPhones can have the freedom not to pay attention?"

Very few of the former and the teams encourage the latter. So many during game promos tied to smartphone use. Going to be very hard to argue that you aren't responsible when a fan gets killed while texting their number for some team giveaway.

BTW, I have tickets right behind the plate at Wrigley field and of course watch through the screen. You don't even notice it.

Dude1394 said...

Well.....I am not sure how bad netting is. But my wife will not attend a baseball game unless she can be assured she will not be hit in the head. She is afraid of flying objects.

I do not know how prevalent this opinion is.

tim in vermont said...

I remember as a small child at a minor league park sitting in the right field bleachers, a line drive hit right at me and me being frozen watching it come at me. A glove appeared right before my face and caught it. Thus I am here to spam the comment threads with my blather.

Ann Althouse said...

My understanding of going to a baseball game is that you're supposed to be aware all the time of the potential for a ball (or bat) to fly at you. It's like learning to look before crossing the street. Basic living-in-the-world competence. If you don't want to participate in that environment, you can stay home and watch the screen that is the TV. To put a net in front of the people who want the real-world experience is so perverse. And what about the fun of thinking you might catch a foul ball? The very chance that you could is now a reason to set it up so you can't.

Henry said...

I knew that the Red Sox had installed protective netting at Fenway over the winter so I was surprised that Harper didn't mention them in his article. Here's a point of clarification. The Red Sox (and many other teams) have added netting from the home plate side of each dugout. Harper is advocating that netting run from the far side of each dugout, allowing himself the following critique:

For most teams that meant a modest widening of their netting covering seats behind the plate. Only the Rangers, Twins, Nationals and Royals decided to be more proactive by adding the aforementioned dugout-to-dugout netting.

However, the placement of dugouts in different parks is very different. Compare the Red Sox seating chart (netting from near side of each dugout) to the Twins seating chart (netting to the far side of each dugout).

So two points on the article:

Mandatory netting would be good.

The "dugout to dugout" distinction is not necessarily a good way to compare different clubs. Harper fails to mention it, but Major League Baseball's actual recommendation mentions both dugouts and distance:

Teams will be encouraged to add netting, or some sort of protective barrier, to shield fans from balls and bats that sometimes go into the stands in all field-level seats between the near ends of both dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate.

Curious George said...

"Ann Althouse said...
My understanding of going to a baseball game is that you're supposed to be aware all the time of the potential for a ball (or bat) to fly at you. It's like learning to look before crossing the street. Basic living-in-the-world competence. If you don't want to participate in that environment, you can stay home and watch the screen that is the TV. To put a net in front of the people who want the real-world experience is so perverse. And what about the fun of thinking you might catch a foul ball? The very chance that you could is now a reason to set it up so you can't."

The screens will only stop line drives, foul pops will go up and over. The liners are not the ones that you want to see come your way. And some seats are so close that even if you are aware, and played baseball, you will not have time to react. Watch this:

http://wgntv.com/2015/08/24/wrigley-fan-incident-heightens-debate-over-ballpark-safety/

You really haven't been to many ballgames have you?

Henry said...

People take kids to baseball games. Kids don't pay attention.

Tank said...

Althouse too living in "the olden days."

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

What about minor league fields that are much smaller and fans are far, far closer to the action?

For that matter, high school fields?

Little League?

The backyard?

Just put a disclaimer on the back of people's tickets and be done with it. If you want no risk at all, sit in your house and hope it isn't hit by a stray jet engine.

Curious George said...

"Ann Althouse said...
My understanding of going to a baseball game is that you're supposed to be aware all the time of the potential for a ball (or bat) to fly at you."

Aware all the time is impossible in a space with tens of thousands of fans. People walk in front of you, vendors are in the way, you have to get up to let someone out, you're passing money down the isle to a vendor, passing the food or beer back...

Henry said...

As an addendum, a photographic comparison:

Minnesota Twins Target Field

Boston Red Sox Fenway Park

Tank said...

Let's keep the fans in the parking lot where they'll be safe.

exhelodrvr1 said...

There should be no risk in life.

Curious George said...

" I Have Misplaced My Pants said...
What about minor league fields that are much smaller and fans are far, far closer to the action?

For that matter, high school fields?

Little League?

The backyard?

Just put a disclaimer on the back of people's tickets and be done with it. If you want no risk at all, sit in your house and hope it isn't hit by a stray jet engine."

What idiocy. I'm not sure minor league parks have fans sitting closer, but they have to make the same changes. Most little league and high school fields put fans and players behind chain link fences. But neither of these venues have the balls coming off the bat like you'll find at the major league level.

Unknown said...

The listing of all of the non major league events is pretty silly. The last time I looked little league isn't tossing balls at 100 mph.

EDH said...

Check out how Japan deals with the issue, from HBO Sports...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyidtI-uNXw

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Hockey.

Plexi-glass.

That is all.

EMD said...

A lot of teams are already doing this.

Henry said...

I'm for protective netting, but I hate sloppy thinking and reporting.

EVERY MLB team has observed the netting recommendation (see table here). So the conceit that MLB has to force the recommendation is immaterial. And, as I've shown above, the idea that netting to the near-side of the dugout is less safe than netting to the far-side of the dugout is totally dependent on the ballpark.

Curious George said...

Hall of Famer Bob Feller's mother attended just one of his games, on Mothers Day 1939 in old Comiskey Park in Chicago. Yep, foul ball hit her and she had to go to the hospital.

Char Char Binks said...

They could just stop playing.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Unknown,
" The last time I looked little league isn't tossing balls at 100 mph."

No, but they use aluminum bats, and people in the stands are closer than people at MLB games.

Wilbur said...

I recalled this and looked it up:
"Richie Ashburn once struck a spectator twice in the same at bat with foul balls, the second time as she was being carried off on a stretcher.

The event happened on August 17, 1957 during a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Giants. The spectator was Alice Roth. Roth was the wife of Earl Roth who was an editor for Philadelphia’s Bulletin newspaper, which Ashburn himself would later write for, along with the Philadelphia Daily News. During the at bat, Ashburn hit a foul ball that struck Roth squarely in the face, breaking her nose. The game was then paused as medics came in to tend to Roth. As they were carrying her away on a stretcher, play was resumed and Ashburn fouled off the first pitch thrown to him. This foul subsequently struck Roth as she was being carried off by the medics.

From that game on, Roth chose to sit in the left field bleachers, far away from any potential foul balls. Roth and Ashburn became friends after that and Roth’s son eventually got to be a batboy for the Phillies."

Original Mike said...

Looking through netting at hockey games sucks. I avoid those seats.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

What idiocy. I'm not sure minor league parks have fans sitting closer, but they have to make the same changes. Most little league and high school fields put fans and players behind chain link fences. But neither of these venues have the balls coming off the bat like you'll find at the major league level.

Ok, non-idiot, tell us exactly what level of risk you feel is appropriate for everyone else.

Jay Vogt said...

. . . Blogger I Have Misplaced My Pants said... "OK, non-idiot, tell us exactly what level of risk you feel is appropriate for everyone else."

You could probably do a somewhat messy but still quantitative measure of this by assessing the ticket prices associated with the seats more likely to have foul balls hit to them and comparing those to the the seats less likely to have foul balls hit to them.

Pretty sure that you'd find that the riskier seats would be more expensive than the less risky seats - implying that most don't price in the risk of being injured by a ball to be significant. Lot's of noise in that calc, but it's probably directionally correct.

I know that's the risk assessment that I do; pay more for a riskier seat.

I Callahan said...

Aware all the time is impossible in a space with tens of thousands of fans. People walk in front of you, vendors are in the way, you have to get up to let someone out, you're passing money down the isle to a vendor, passing the food or beer back...

Sorry, CG, but I'm with Althouse on this. Why the hell go to a ballgame if you're not going to frigging pay attention? If I'm close enough to where a ball can come my way, I bring my glove. And if people are in your way, they're going to get hit with the ball before you anyway.

I have no sympathy. Balls are hit out of the field every game. If people don't know that by now, they should stay home and watch on TV.

Marc Puckett said...

Watched that video of Japan's way of dealing with the threat!-- up until Bryant Gumbel was talking about 'stewards/guards/whatever [who] receive special training to deal with incoming foul balls' and the video displayed a fellow with a hardhat, ducking. Was quite amusing.

kjbe said...

Aware all the time is impossible in a space with tens of thousands of fans. People walk in front of you, vendors are in the way, you have to get up to let someone out, you're passing money down the isle to a vendor, passing the food or beer back...

Exactly. Pitchers aren't even "aware" all of the time - how often do they get clocked? It's a reasonable but unrealistic to expect more from fans.

Curious George said...

"I Callahan said...
Sorry, CG, but I'm with Althouse on this. Why the hell go to a ballgame if you're not going to frigging pay attention? If I'm close enough to where a ball can come my way, I bring my glove. And if people are in your way, they're going to get hit with the ball before you anyway."

More idiocy. We not talking about foul pops, we are talking about liners. Major league liners. In the area they are talking about netting that mitt isn't going to help. And the people in your way, facing their first screaming liner, have a habit of ducking.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I Have Misplaced My Pants said...
What idiocy. I'm not sure minor league parks have fans sitting closer, but they have to make the same changes. Most little league and high school fields put fans and players behind chain link fences. But neither of these venues have the balls coming off the bat like you'll find at the major league level.

Ok, non-idiot, tell us exactly what level of risk you feel is appropriate for everyone else.

I'm not sure what you are asking. But I think it makes sense that MLB teams mitigate as much risk as reasonably possible. If I were them I would.

Jason said...

It's official. Even hardball has been taken over by pussies.

Jason said...

Coincidentally, I just finished Netflixing a documentary last night called "Knuckleballers." It follows the careers of two great recent knuckleballers, R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield. Great, great documentary for lovers of the game.

Curious George said...

"Jason said...
Coincidentally, I just finished Netflixing a documentary last night called "Knuckleballers." It follows the careers of two great recent knuckleballers, R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield. Great, great documentary for lovers of the game."

It's called "Knuckleball!"

Henry said...

Jay Vogt wrote: I know that's the risk assessment that I do; pay more for a riskier seat.

While looking for baseball images I found this: The Math Behind Ticket Bargains.

I think these guys could do the math for you.

Jason said...

Correct. "Knuckeball!" I have no idea why I wrote "Knuckleballers." Must have had another chat window open.

Curious George said...

"Jason said...
Correct. "Knuckeball!" I have no idea why I wrote "Knuckleballers." Must have had another chat window open."

You were right about it, great documentary.

Curious George said...

The funny line from the movie is something like "At the end of the world all that will survive will be cockroaches and Tim Wakefield"

john dean said...


This is a problem created by MLB and therefore needs to be solved by MLB.

More and more fans are 'unaware' because MLB has placed a significant money bet ($300 million) on the social networking aspects of baseball in order to attract and retain a younger demographic.

MLB’s Wi-Fi everywhere plan nears completion

Why MLB really wants you to have WiFi and a smart phone at the ball game

If you encourage fans to play with their devices at the game, it follows that they cannot remain completely aware of the environment.

Nets or Networks - they have to choose.

Mark said...

We already have a rule.

It is called assumption of risk. If you go to a game, then you have freely and voluntarily agreed to assume the risk of being hit by a ball. If it happens, it is on you. If you do not want to take that risk, then stay home. That too is your choice. No one forces you to go to the games.

Howard said...

Was at an A's game last week behind the netting near the on-deck circle. You forget the net is there because humans have evolved to filter out noise and focus on signal. You also reflexively flinch at the balls drilled back toward you. We all watched in horror as the fat end and split neck of a broken bat was hurled into the stands over the low net above the home dugout. Good luck catching that

PianoLessons said...

Folks - we literally live in a world where some states are trying to pass laws against pedestrians who are crossing streets while watching their phones.

In the old days - common sense prevailed (as Anne says)...but in MANY college towns, motorists are plagued with students just walking blindly into traffic pedestrian crossings while NEVER EVER looking left or right to see if cars are coming.

Entitlement? Phone Addiction? Lack of Common Sense Parenting?

This kind of moron behavior is alive and well folks and yes - we will have nets to obscure views at baseball games. Many nets. Ticket sales will drop - why not watch games on TV/stream?

Somtimes I worry that our era is simply plagued with the lack of #CommonSense101 in so many ways.