The following is a revised version of the several letters I sent to Commissioner Manfred and MLB General Counsel Mellis back in July and August. Regrettably, neither gentlemen responded to my comments and suggestions regarding the simplest and most cost effective ways to help minimize the perceived increase in foul ball injuries. Manfred recently proclaimed that no universal solution was available, particularly emphasizing the use of netting. This is partially untrue.
If you’ve followed me on Twitter for the last three seasons, you’re fully aware of my stance on netting in MLB parks: None is needed. I’ve published several posts that show that fans do have adequate time to react to a foul ball in spite of what attorneys for adult injury victims claim; you also know that I am adamantly opposed to those parents who recklessly endanger their children by placing them in danger zones. There are plenty of MLB seating tickets in other areas that are safer. I get particularly heated when I see parents holding babies while they go for a foul ball rather than protecting the child. Let’s think about that: Who’s fault would it have been if the baby sucking on a bottle had been hurt or even killed as a result of the parent’s desire to snag the ball rather than protect their child? I’m also a fan of designated family sections placed in the outfield seating areas, as I note in my letter below. These areas will still give kids the chance to interact with their baseball heroes, yet keep them adequately protected from the blazing line drives in the sections near the dugouts.
The issue here is common sense on both sides. Fans knowing sit in these areas. They can just as easily sit in the upper decks, but they have free will and CHOOSE to sit in those sections. Thus they take on the responsibility to pay attention to the game at all times. People love to come up with excuses–vendors and other ball park distractions, for example, distract them–but the onus is still on the fan. I will grant that the vendors often block the view. And we can’t pay attention 100% of the time. We do need to check our kids or look at where our beverage or food is to reach for it, but those can be done BETWEEN innings or quickly between batters. Again, common sense.
But part of the issue is also on MLB. As a general rule I support Major League Baseball almost to the point of blind devotion. However, I think Manfred and Mellis have created a larger issue here than there exists by not fully exploring the possibilities of better protecting fans without interfering with the intimacy of the game. Hence my suggestions in the letter.
Whether these help future lawsuits against MLB or help MLB in defending against these suits, I don’t know. Regardless, common sense really needs to be brought back into the equation on both sides.
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
Robert D. Manfred Jr., Commissioner
Mike Mellis, General Counsel
245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, NY 10167
26 August 2015
Dear Commissioner Manfred and General Counsel Mellis:
I wrote last month suggesting two alterations MLB should seriously consider for next season—specific family areas in which young children must sit and a series of short sections of tempered glass installed rather than unsightly netting.
As stated in my previous letters, my website, FoulBallz.com, deals solely with foul ball data, and as the owner of the only site dedicated to foul balls, I’m active in discussions with fans and journalists regarding fan safety. I’m also an advocate for no additional netting, hence my suggestions in my prior letter.
Because of the latest lawsuit brought against MLB by the Oakland Athletics fan and the perceived increase in serious injuries related to foul balls this season (which isn’t being alleviated when two more incidents occur as they did this past weekend in Detroit and Chicago), I am offering you my expertise in foul balls. Because I am a sole proprietor, I do nearly all of the work myself; as a result, I am well versed in several aspects of foul balls, including the most likely places for foul balls to land, the general odds of catching (and, by extension, being hit by) a foul ball, as well as being very familiar with the foul ball rules, legal cases/laws, “The Baseball Rule,” contributory negligence, average human response times to stimuli such as foul balls, and other aspects having to do with foul balls.
It would prove beneficial to MLB [to consider these options in order to] help to minimize the doubts so many people have regarding what is seen as a lack of serious consideration by MLB with respect to fan safety. As you know, many people believe you are acting too slowly or simply don’t care about fan safety, that you should act post-haste and implement sweeping safety practices, like netting. In my work with foul balls, I see a large number of people overreacting to recent events. My current suggestions, as well as a few others, will help MLB (and MiLB if their leadership chooses to follow suit) will keep costs down and increase safety significantly if implemented. Armed with such understanding, [it would be prudent to being] implementing these ideas immediately to minimize the dangers to fans, making sure to focus our attention on the most cost effective ways to do so.
As you recall from my previous communications, my first recommendation is to install a 2 feet high barrier of tempered glass along the baseline walls and the top of each dugout from the netting to the second section past each dugout, since the area covered would end at the far side of each dugout in areas that don’t see the most dangerous balls and bats. Statistically, according to Gil Fried and others, these are the areas most prone to the most dangerous foul balls, the line drives, and to broken bats. This reasonably inexpensive addition still allows players to lean into the stands to catch a foul ball on the far side of the dugout. I am happy to assist you with understanding the best placement for these non-invasive glass plates in each park.
My second suggestion is that you require teams to establish family seating areas for those fans with small children—newborns and toddlers in particular. This will avoid “hero” parents like the Cubs guy who decided to risk his child’s life by going after a foul ball and the others who followed (one of whom dropped their kid) rather than ducking away from it to protect his child. Since you are both attorneys in your own right, you understand that this type of action by parents is considered “reckless endangerment”. Thus, you protect children from their parents and from foul balls by implementing this free option.
By doing these two very simple things, you offer the fans crying for netting and added protection a compromise. You also show you are caring and concerned about minimizing instances like the Cubs dad, the young lady injured at a game who filed the lawsuit against the Atlanta Braves (Mr. Ostertag cited my site in his brief, in fact), the Oakland Athletics suit by Gail Payne, and the two serious injuries from this past weekend [9/22-24] in Detroit and Chicago.
While I have proven in a blog post that, contrary to popular perception and erroneous belief, fans do have enough reaction time if they are paying attention, this new evidence doesn’t preclude you for making basic alterations that could assist with minimizing some of the dangers inherent with the game when it enters the seats.
I look forward to speaking with you about these and other ideas regarding fan protection, as well as several areas in the brief submitted on behalf of Gail Payne that I have identified as being inaccurate and misleading.
Thank you for your time.