I’m conflicted on this. What is different about baseball fan safety now than it was 5 – 10 – 50 years ago? Now… if new stadiums are being designed that DO put fans more “at risk” then certainly rectify those designs features.
Are more broken bats going into the stands (which are like very large ninja fighting stars) then why is that? Are balls being hit harder making them harder to avoid? Extending the netting from foul pole / foul pole seems excessive. I’m not paying several $100/ticket so impacting my view doesn’t concern me. …. The primo seats – behind home plate and between the dugouts are already “impacted by netting” so extending the netting to the far end of the dugouts seems reasonable. But where do you stop ??
Is this just the latest in our litigious (let’s sue) society? …. if in MLB parks, why not in EVERY ballpark in America – minors, college, high school, rec league ??
Your thoughts ???
In wake of latest tragedy, no reason for MLB to delay safety measures
We’ve seen enough.
We’ve heard enough.
Oh, and how we’ve mourned enough.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfredmay hear resistance from team owners, and objections from valued season ticket-holders, but he no longer has a choice.
It’s time for a drastic change to ballpark safety.
Before another fan dies, or is hospitalized with head injuries, or even bruised.
It’s time to make it mandatory in all ballparks that safety netting is expanded at least to the dugouts, if not beyond, as Kansas City Royals player representative Jeremy Guthrie has been lobbying, and while we’re at it, let’s take a close examination of the heights of every upper-deck railing.
“It really scares me when I’ll turn around,” St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Mathenytold USA TODAY Sports, “and I’ll see in these really close seats people that I know can’t defend themselves -whether it be young kids or elderly people or people just not paying attention. …
“I know I don’t want my family getting anywhere close to those close seats without some sort of netting in front of them.”
Gregory Murrey of Alpharetta, Ga., 60, became the latest statistic when he fell about 40 feet from the upper deck in the seventh inning Saturday night at Turner Field. The 23-year season ticket holder was pronounced dead a few hours later. Autopsy reports have yet to be revealed, but no foul play is suspected.
Maybe we’ll never know exactly what happened, or whether Murrey actually rushed to the railing to boo New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez as he walked to the plate, as some fans suggested, but we do know it’s the second death since 2013 at Turner Field – the first was ruled a suicide – and the third in seven years.
“Everybody’s family who was here definitely experienced some part of it,” Braves second baseman Jace Peterson, whose girlfriend was seated within 10 feet where Murrey’s body landed, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “No kid or no woman, no one deserves to see something like that. I know there were quite a few players in here whose families were right there within a few feet away. I heard some pretty graphic stuff.
“To be honest with you, I was surprised we finished the game. I thought we’d at least pause it for a little bit.”
It resurrects those haunting memories of four years ago when Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton innocently flipped a baseball to a fan in the left field stands. Only the fan, firefighter Shannon Stone, elated to retrieve the ball for his 6-year-old son, came rushing toward the railing in Texas, flipped over and fell 20 feet onto the concrete below.
He was pronounced dead an hour later.
The International Building Code mandates that venues like Turner Field and the Rangers’ ballpark have rail heights of 33 inches, increasing to 42 inches at the base of aisles. These standards are both reasonable and pragmatic, yet has not prevented fan-falling incidents at those parks as well as the Georgia Dome and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium in recent years.
And they are merely minimums; clubs and venues can always opt for a safer setting. In the wake of Stone’s death in Arlington, the Rangers raised the height of all railings in their ballpark from 33 inches to 42 inches before the start of the next season, at a cost of $1.1 million. And MLB implemented a rule prohibiting players from tossing baseballs that deep into the stands.
There have been other changes.
Baseball swiftly reacted in 2007 after the death of Mike Coolbaugh, the Tulsa Drillersfirst base coach, who was killed by a line drive during a minor league game. Major League Baseball required all base coaches to wear helmets.
The coaches initially protested, saying it was extreme, but you don’t hear any complaints these days.
Why do we always have to wait for tragedy to change our safety standards?
Now is the time for baseball to react again, before we have another death, or person hospitalized, rushed away by ambulance.
“We are in the midst of a comprehensive study related to fan safety and are evaluating a number of issues,” said Pat Courtney, chief communications officer for Major League Baseball. “If MLB and its clubs determine change are necessary, then it is anticipated that a complete proposal would be made this off-season, ahead of the 2016 season.”
Major League Baseball wisely implemented metal detectors this season, trying to ensure no handguns or weapons make it to the seats, so there’s absolutely no reason not to take fan safety to another level.
Sure, those fans shelling out $300 a ticket in the box seats may initially balk looking through a netting, but if they don’t like it, they can reserve the right to stop coming to games, too.
It’s no different than the airlines. You may hate taking off your shoes, your belt and putting your laptop in a bin, but if you don’t like it, stop flying.
You can get used to inconvenience.
You never become immune to tragedy.
“I know it may restrict the viewing a little bit,” San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, “but these new parks are so close to the field, there are times when I can’t seem to get out of the way here, and this is what I do for a living. We should try to do something to cut back on these injuries to the fans.”
Gail Payne, an Oakland Athletics season-ticket holder, certainly has seen enough. She filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court last month requiring MLB to extend the netting from foul pole to foul pole, instead of just a few sections behind home plate.
“She fears for her and her husband’s safety, and particular for her daughter,” the lawsuit said. “She is constantly ducking and weaving to avoid getting hit by foul balls or shattered bats.”
There are 53,000 foul balls that enter the seats every year, according to Edwin Comber, creator of foulballz.com. And 1,750 spectators are injured every season by batted balls at major league games, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg News.
Tonya Carpenter, sitting in the second row at Fenway Park with her young son in June, was hit in the face by a broken maple bat swung by Oakland A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie. She was put on a gurney, rushed off the field and taken by ambulance with life threatening injuries. She spent a week in the hospital, was transferred to a rehabilitation facility, and has survived. Just a month later, also at Fenway, Stephanie Wapenski, 36, was struck in the head by a foul ball, and received more than 30 stitches.
And a year earlier at Fenway Park, Stephanie Taubin of Brookline, Mass., was struck by a ball while sitting high above home plate. She was sitting in an area normally protected by glass, but the glass had been removed for renovations. Taubin said that she suffered facial fractures and neurological damage, and last week filed a lawsuit against Red Sox owner John Henry.
Enough is enough.
Remember Brittanie Cecil? She was the 13-year-old girl who went to a hockey game in 2002 in Columbus, Ohio. A puck flew up and hit her in the head. She suffered a fractured skull. And died two days later.
The NHL immediately ordered all of its teams to install netting above the glass.
Do we need that kind of senseless tragedy for baseball to come to its senses?
Those ballpark signs of “Please Stay Alert to Bats and Balls Leaving the Field,” simply don’t suffice.
“You’ll see some folks who are sitting there, they’ve got their glove on and they’re focused,” Matheny said, “and I’m going to tell you, they’re still going to have trouble defending themselves. We have trouble doing it right here and we have some of the greatest athletes on the planet. The balls come in sometimes, and we expect it to happen, and we still barely get out of the way. …
“There’s always that thrill of catching a foul ball, but if you get hit one time, that thrill goes away real fast.”
The subject of fan safety was privately addressed two weeks ago by Manfred at the quarterly owners meetings in Chicago. He’s concerned, and well-aware of the incidents, but couldn’t publicly go into specifics, citing legal matters and ongoing lawsuits.
We don’t need to know the details of those talks. We don’t need to know the players union has been lobbying for measures, and even addressed the subject before their last collective bargaining agreement.
What we do need to know is when MLB will do something, and it better be before 2016 opening day, providing ample time for every ballpark to make their improvements.
The Braves, who are moving to a new suburban ballpark in 2017, say that safety issues already have been paramount in their planning, but it won’t stop those haunting memories of Saturday night, watching Murrey’s body plunge onto the concrete walkway between sections, appearing to land headfirst.
“There were a ton of kids right there,” Adam Staudacher, who with his girlfriend were returning to his seats in Section 201, told the Associated Press. “It was a disturbing scene.
“Disturbing doesn’t really go far enough.”
It has got to stop.