Does Japanese Baseball Have The Answer For MLB’s Dangerous Foul Ball Problem? – Forbes
When a young girl was injured by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium last week, a cry went up across the baseball world for increased protection for fans from batted balls. In the search for an answer, perhaps Major League Baseball can look to Japan, where the danger of foul balls has been monetized.
The good news is that the girl who was hit by a foul ball crushed by Todd Frazier seems to be recovering, according to Frazier’s reports, and may soon be released from the hospital. But while the incident was frightening, it was hardly isolated. Analysis by Bloomberg in 2014 predicted that as many as 1,750 fans a year were injured by foul balls at big league games.
MLB’s pitch data shows that hard-hit balls come off the bat at speeds of over 100 mph, so it’s unrealistic for even the most-attentive fans to be able catch—or even dodge—a hot foul ball. Forget about fans with children, or even nachos and cell phones.
Currently Major League Baseball requires only the most minimal protection for fans—the only place a net is required is in front of the seats immediately behind the catcher (which are—ironically—the most expensive seats at most stadiums.)
However 10 teams have taken it upon themselves to increase fan safety by putting netting down the lines with four more planning to do so. (Baseball have largely been immune from litigation from injured fans because of the “assumption of risk” language printed on the tickets, commonly known as “the Baseball Rule.”)
Perhaps MLB will take a page from Japanese baseball. In stadiums in Japan, they take foul balls very seriously. Signs are posted in the stands that warn quite graphically of the danger of foul balls. There are nets that extend from foul pole to foul pole. If a ball does clear the netting, ushers warn fans and immediately with whistles and horns and come over right away to make sure the fan is all right.
Except in the so-called “exciting seats” In the Tokyo Dome, where the Yomiuri Giants play, one section close to the field of play has no netting. Fans pay a premium for these seats and similar sections in other stadiums. Each fan in these coveted seats is issued a helmet and a glove.
Is this the solution for MLB? More netting, but also some netting free sections where fans are encouraged to be attentive? It’s not clear what the lawyers might have to say about any of this, but the marketing guys can see this as a way to increase revenue with virtually added expense.