Opinion: Time for Fans to Demand Baseball Safety

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It's time, people.

It's time for you, the fans, to speak out.

Sure, blame the New York Yankees for a 2-year-old girl's hospitalization, her face and head bloodied by a foul ball in an injury that left grown men in tears, fearing for her life.

If you must, blame Major League Baseball for merely recommending, not requiring, that teams have protective netting that extends beyond every dugout.

But blame your peers, too, the ones who pay top dollar for the finest seats in these largely taxpayer-funded palaces.

They keep telling baseball owners you don't want expanded netting, resisting the Major League Baseball Players Association's efforts to not only keep fans safe but the players from a tragedy that could haunt them for the rest of their lives.

"If I hurt somebody, even though I can't control it, I would feel terrible," Boston Red Sox outfielder Chris Young told USA TODAY Sports in 2016. "I would feel awful. You're just trying to play a game. The last thing you want to do is hurt somebody. It's not something you want on your conscience."

Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier dropped to one knee and prayed after his foul ball struck the girl seated in the sixth row of the lower left-field stands at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. It was at least the fourth incident of a fan hit by a foul ball or a bat at Yankee Stadium this season.

"I still have a knot in my stomach," Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said.

The Yankees revealed that the girl, who was attending the game with her grandparents, was in satisfactory condition at the hospital Thursday afternoon.

She could have easily been killed.

Major League Baseball suggested to every team last year that it extend the netting at least 70 feet to the inner edge of each dugout. Ten teams — the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals — took the mandate further and extended the netting to the ends of each dugout.

It was a start.

But it's not good enough.

This is where you come in.

When the clubs reached out to their fans, primarily their season ticketholders, asking their opinion on whether they wanted the netting to extend farther than required, the answer was a resounding no.

"We had fans upset," Yankees COO Lonn Trost told The New York Times this summer, "that we're even considering it."

The fans complained in the surveys, saying they're not paying $300 for a lower-level ticket to watch a game through a screen. They want an unimpeded view. They told the teams they realize the inherent danger, but they're willing to take the risk.

It's time to drop the machismo.

Call your team and voice your opinion that you're standing up for safety. Send emails. Leave voicemails. Complain to your ushers. Make your voice heard loud and clear.

If you don't feel your team is listening to you, hurt it back where it hurts the most.

Smack in its bank account.

Don't renew your season tickets. Stop coming to games, unless a change is made.

Do that, and you'll see just how quickly your team responds.

No more excuses. No more alibis. No more gruesome incidents that will ultimately lead to tragedy.

We never should have waited until 2008 for Major League Baseball to mandate that every base coach on the field wear batting helmets, but it took a line drive July 22, 2007, that struck Colorado Rockies minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh in the neck. He was pronounced dead an hour later.

It's good that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement Thursday that MLB will "redouble our efforts" in working with clubs "on this issue."

That still makes it clear the ultimate power lies with individual franchises.

In that case, if you're going to complain about seeing though a net, you might want to contact Tonya Carpenter, 44, who was struck in the head by the barrel of a broken bat in 2015 at Fenway Park. She had brain surgery to stay alive. Stephanie Wapenski was hit in the forehead five days later at Fenway Park by a foul ball. She needed 40 stitches.

Ask them what they think about protective netting.

"I don't care about the damn view of a fan, it's all about safety," Dozier said. "We've been trying to get these teams to put nets up. We've got to do something about it. No exceptions."

Please, before it's too late.

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September 22, 2017


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