Baseball fans deserve more protection from foul balls – Chicago Tribune

When Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber connect at the plate, their exit velocity — the speed at which the ball leaves the bat — often exceeds 100 mph. A ball hit that hard travels 146 feet in about a second. And spectators sitting far closer to home plate than that are unprotected and virtually helpless. The netting at Chicago’s Wrigley Field extends only far enough to shield Cubs fans sitting within 70 feet. Netting at Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the White Sox, offers similar protection, in line with the current recommendations from Major League Baseball.

Last season, a fan sitting close to the field at Wrigley was hit by a ball that broke his nose and cost him his left eye. He’s suing the Cubs and Major League Baseball for alleged negligence in not providing longer netting. Three weeks ago, a 2-year-old girl at Yankees Stadium was hospitalized after a foul smashed her in the face at an estimated 105 mph. In 1970, a 14-year-old California boy died of traumatic head injuries after being struck by a lined foul at a Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants game in Dodger Stadium. And baseballs aren’t the only danger: Bats occasionally go flying into the stands.

Baseball stadiums are places that fans go to relax, drink beer, eat hot dogs and chat with their friends. Getting a serious injury from a screaming projectile is not in anyone’s plan. But a 2014 report by Bloomberg News found that 1,750 fans are hurt by foul balls each season.

MLB deserves credit for finally paying more attention to the risk. In 2015, it recommended that each team provide netting to shield all seats within 70 feet of home plate, roughly to the home-plate edge of each dugout.


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