There was concern all around Yankee Stadium yesterday when a foul ball, scalded at 105 MPH off the bat of Todd Frazier, hit a young fan down the left field line.
Play on the diamond literally came to a stop for nearly five minutes as Yankees, Twins, and umpires watched helplessly, some with tears in their eyes.
The girl’s father told reporters at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center that she’s “doing alright,” but may require surgery.
Mandating extended netting, even netting that goes from foul pole to pole, should be an easy call. Baseball, however, has dragged its feet and most ownership has not stepped up voluntarily.
Heads In The Sand
Back in December 2015, Major League Baseball toothlessly recommended, but did not require teams to extend netting to 70 feet from home plate to the inner edges of the dugout, or about 10 feet more on either side of the field. The Red Sox and the Yankees did just that. The changes at Fenway were an easy call, particularly after a woman had been recently struck by a broken bat there, suffering life-threatening injuries. Since that time, some teams have done even more. The Mets, for example, introducing extended safety netting at Citi Field during this year’s All-Star break.
In the aftermath of Wednesday’s incident, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, who manages to speak so passionately about such relatively mundane issues as pace of game initiatives, called what happened at Yankee Stadium “extremely upsetting,” adding that baseball will “redouble our efforts on this important issue.” But as recently as September 11, the Yankees were non-committal on any further extensions.
Major League Baseball, a game of numbers, keeps no official data on people hit or injured at ballparks. A Bloomberg study in 2014 estimated a surprisingly high 1,750 foul ball injuries a year, most of them minor.
Some city legislatures, including New York’s, are considering ordinances that would require extended safety netting. US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) told the baseball Commissioner in a letter on Thursday to push for it all 30 MLB ballparks.
Players Speak Out, Some Clubs Respond
“I think the netting should be up. I think every stadium should have it,” Frazier said after the game. Aaron Judge, who watched as a young fan was injured by one of his foul balls in July, agreed about netting, “We need it.”
Brian Dozier of the Twins was more pointed in his comments. “I don’t care about the damn view of a fan,” Dozier said. “It’s all about safety. I still have a knot in my stomach. We need nets. Or don’t put kids down there.”
The Reds, Mariners, and Padres have announced that they will all install extended safety netting during the coming off-season.