It seems like this happens every week: a young child was struck and injured by a line drive foul ball in yesterday’s game between the Royals and Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
The child, who is three-years-old, was struck by a hard foul ball off the bat of Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. The child was transported to a local hospital. The Indians are not authorized to release any information about the child, but Lindor said after the game he was told that the child was in stable condition.
The protective netting at Progressive Field runs to the end of each dugout. Lindor’s line drive landed several sections beyond the netting and was about 12 to 15 rows into the stands. Lindor said after the game that he thinks that all teams should extend protective netting from foul pole to foul pole:
“I encourage every MLB team to put the nets all the way down. I know it’s all about the fans’ experience of interacting with players and I completely get that. You want to have that interaction with the fans, getting autographs and stuff, but at the end of the day, we want to make sure everybody comes out of this game healthy, and we got to do something about it. Everybody feels bad. And if we can put the nets a little bit further down, I think it would be a lot better.”
The Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals have either extended protective netting or recently announced plans to do so. In both Chicago and Kansas City this was done in direct response to a child getting injured. This reactive, rather than proactive, response is similar to all 30 teams extending netting to the end of dugouts only after a child was seriously injured at a Yankees game at the end of the 2017 season. This despite the fact that Major League Baseball recommended, but did not mandate, extended netting nearly two years earlier, in December 2015.
Why teams have consistently refused to extend netting unless or until children get injured is an interesting question. It’s one that, if I was an attorney for the family of an injured child, I’d be asking team and league officials — officials who have spent the past several years using ever-increasing exit velocities of balls off bats as a marketing tool and who have acknowledged that the ball has experienced changes recently which has caused it to fly farther, faster — in a formal setting.