It’s becoming alarmingly common, but yet another young fan was hospitalized after being struck by a foul ball, this time at a Los Angeles Dodgers game on Sunday.
The young woman was seated just past the end of the protective netting down the first base line, which extends to the far edge of the dugout. She was seated just four rows from the field.
Still, that was not enough time for her to get out of the way of a hard liner from Cody Bellinger, who was clearly distraught by the accident and checked in on the fan after the inning.
Bellinger concerned after hitting fan with foul ball pic.twitter.com/F0itYfT9lJ— Steve (@sportslist5) June 23, 2019
According to an AP report, first-aid personel gave her an ice pack, but she had to be taken to a hospital about 15 minutes later for precautionary tests.
The announcer in the video mentioned that fans check their phones more often than ever, but it’s important to point out that fans should not be blamed for being unable to get out of the way of foul balls. Balls hit at 100 mph travel nearly 150 feet per second, giving fans close to the field almost no time to react and move.
After the game, Bellinger came out in support of extending nets, in part because some fans just don’t have a chance to protect themselves.
“I would assume,” he said, “that would be a smart decision just to protect those fans in the front row that don't have the reaction time."
More netting is needed down the lines
What once seemed like a rare occurrence is verging on an epidemic at baseball games.
It was just 25 days ago that Chicago Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr.’s foul ball struck a young fan in a high-profile incident, and it’s happened several times since, including at minor league games.
Even last August, a woman died after suffering injuries from a foul ball at Dodgers Stadium.
Major League Baseball has made an effort to expand netting down the line, and as of 2018, all teams have netting at least to the far edges of each dugout. Many stadiums have more netting that goes down to the foul polls without obstructing fans’ views, and that could have saved this young fan a world of pain. Just in the last week, the Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals announced plans to extend netting to the polls.
Catching a ball at a baseball game has always — and likely will always — be a favorite part of the game for young fans. However, with foul balls on the rise, that’s no reason to keep netting to the bare minimum.
Some foul balls will still go over netting along the sideline, and fans have a chance to react to high-arcing pop-ups. But even the most aware and prepared fans have little-to-no chance of blocking line drives hit right at them. It’s past time to protect fans more, and future injuries will be on the hands of teams who have decided to do nothing in the face of clear solutions.
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