Foul Ball Injuries Take Center Stage: Family Safety Must be Priority

20150617_183549This is Part 2 of my discussion regarding the best options facing MLB, MiLB and other baseball leagues as it relates to foul ball and broken bat injuries to fans in the stands.

As noted in the earlier post, there is evidence—anecdotal, statistical and common sense—that tells us the first few rows in each park are the most dangerous, with the third base side, according to Gil Fried’s “Don’t Sit There…or There…or There”, being the most potentially dangerous side of the diamond. These facts aren’t in dispute by anyone as far as I can tell. What is being disputed is a baseball team’s responsibility to their fans (at all levels, but most focused on MLB and MiLB). The debated question is: “Should we have more netting?” If you’ve read my work, read the interviews and follow me on Twitter (@FoulBallz), you know my response.

There are alternatives to the netting that don’t seem to be discussed. The tempered glass option I recommended in Part I is just one of the two best practices MLB can implement to protect more fans without any interruption to the game’s integrity.

We’ve heard a great deal about foul ball and broken bat injuries this 2015 season. Anecdotally, there does seem to be a heightened awareness of the dangers of such projectiles. In Part I, I argued for a reasonably unobtrusive solution to those who sit in the first few rows where the most potentially fatal projectiles travel, in addition to what I told The Dallas Morning News and The Boston Globe: Pay Attention!

The recommendation in the previous article calls for a simple 2 feet high section of tempered glass (like that found in hockey rinks) be attached to the top of the baseline walls of the stadium. This only protects the closest fans, but it cuts down on balls bouncing into the stands, the low, fast line drives and potential fan/player injuries as a result of collisions. It would also help minimize fan interference.

As you might have gathered, this second option is especially close to my heart. As a father of two, I admittedly have sat in the most dangerous sections with my kids.

As I’ve performed more and more research into foul balls (for obvious reasons), I’ve concluded that doing that makes me a bad father. An irresponsible, selfish, parent. Because I sat in seats that can be considered hotspots for foul ball activity, I became an uncaring dad. A harsh self-assessment? Yes. I know better than to place me kids in potential harm in such a blatant manner. At least I’m honest with myself.
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This season alone, I’ve counted two dozen parents being celebrated for superb foul ball snags while having their child in their arms. While some of these parents are sitting a good way from the action and a foul just happened to locate them, many, like the Cubs fan with the baby feeding in June, are hailed as “heroes”. We clearly have loosened the definition of hero if this guy is one.

We see Cut4, ESPN, and other major sports outlets glorifying parents holding their kids as they catch a foul ball. Is this really what we should be doing? As a father of two young kids, I cringe every time I see this type of thing. I think to myself—and sometimes out loud on Twitter—that the parent is irresponsible and endangering their child. These are the first people who would try suing the team as well.

What I and a minority see in all this is a legal violation called reckless endangerment. Reckless endangerment, simply put, is:

A crime consisting of acts that create a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. The accused person isn’t required to intend the resulting or potential harm, but must have acted in a way that showed a disregard for the foreseeable consequences of the actions. The charge may occur in various contexts, such as, among others, domestic cases, car accidents, construction site accidents, testing sites, domestic/child abuse situations, and hospital abuse.

As you can see, by that definition, the “hero” dad who willfully went after a potentially deadly projectile by showing “disregard for the foreseeable consequences of the actions.”foulballwhileusingphone

This brings me to Option 2, an option that should be combined with Option 1: If we really want to get to the nitty-gritty on this topic too, we can add in that MLB, in particular, should designate family areas in each park so children are out of reach of the most dangerous foul ball sections, those with the highest percentage of line drives.

Personally and professionally, I think the one action MLB needs to take to protect children at games, one that makes the most sense and won’t cost a dime, is for each team to designate certain areas as family friendly. This is simple enough to do.

To help ensure compliance, each team (or the League) would create a manner in which to regulate ticket purchases. When buying a ticket, the team’s site will simply ask the buyer if a ticket is for a child or if any children will be present. We see that ability when we make airline and hotel reservations.

For those who prefer to go through ticket sites like Ticket Network, something can also be added to non-team sites, perhaps in their Terms and Conditions.

Teams already offer family deals with seats in the upper decks. It seems reasonable to also create a family specific area in the lower levels, sections that still allow kids to be close to their baseball heroes, but significantly more protected from the dangers of foul balls and bats.

A small area near the foul poles on each foul line would do the trick. This area would let kids be close to the action, close enough to the ball boys and girls and close enough for some of the players to interact with them. The areas would be age specific too. From a father’s perspective, I think that making these sections for 0 – 5-year-olds would be best. By the time a child is 6, their parents should have educated the kid enough on the game that they stand a better chance in other sections.
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Again I will reiterate: It really comes down to common sense, something I’ve been saying for a while. But if you REALLY want to sit in the most dangerous seats, then add some level of protection so you don’t get slammed by a foul ball or an errant bat while looking at your phone during times you shouldn’t be.

If you are going to do this, then at least have the common sense of taking a Meerkat posture and making sure that someone is always on guard.

Until such time that ticket sites and MLB teams add family sections that kids between certain ages must sit in, use common sense and don’t put your kid in danger by sitting this close to the action.