Thursday, September 21, 2017

September 21, 2017
Late to the party? Sort of. Working on this for the past twenty-four hours, but wanted to hold off until today.

Earlier this week, a young girl attending a Yankee game was seriously injured by a foul ball. It was estimated to be traveling at over 100-mph. For a few days, the sports news media will be all up-in-arms; self-righteous and indignant. Then they will move on to a different 'big' topic and the young girl will get lost in the shuffle. This is somewhat the tragedy of our 'news now and forget it later' mentality.

As a society, we have the choice of how long we pay attention to a topic and, when it comes to stories such as this, we have societal ADD. We just don't seem to care long enough to make a difference. I think I am probably just as guilty as anyone.

We all have topics in which we continue to draw inspiration; but we let some of these stories die without any real impact or action. We voice our dismay, we call for change, and then we go on.

Jeff Passan wrote a fantastic piece on the topic. It was rightfully heavy in its criticism of Major League Baseball and every team which plays the game. But this really is deeper than just the major leagues.

When I worked for the Eugene Ems, I cannot count the number of people injured in the stands by flying objects. The most vivid memory is of an elderly gentleman on the third base side getting a broken bat lodged in his abdomen. It was scary and gruesome. And, you know what, as Passan points out, lawsuits die quickly at all levels. Why?

Most are stymied by what’s referred to as the Baseball Rule, which is essentially an assumption-of-risk standard to which fans are held. Teams do warn fans, on their ticket, with signage and in pregame announcements, that projectiles do come into the stands, and to be careful. At the same time, the notion that a warning offers any sort of protection is absurd; even if ready and attentive, the vast majority of people are not quick enough to read the path of a ball and duck out of its way in less than a second. 
Essentially, this is what I was told at the time as well. Yes, we paid for the hospital bill, the ambulance ride. We gave him a 'free' season ticket; players gave him a signed bat. He seemed generally to accept the associated risk and its consequence.

The issue here, to me, is not that there is risk at a sporting event; but that there are some very inexpensive and non-obtrusive solutions to these problems and no one seems to want to take the steps. A few teams at the major league level have gone beyond  the requirements established by MLB; but why is it that safety is an outlier?

Baseball, unlike just about any other professional sport, is stuck in its past; suckling on the glory days under the guise of tradition and history.

I mentioned the other day how much I liked the old Jack Morris, game-seven World Series performance. The purist in me really enjoys a pitchers duel. Despite that puritan streak, I don't think we should consider an unsafe environment as something other than what it is.


I know it is exciting to catch a foul ball; but is that excitement worth all of the risk? The dangers to young children? Grown men struggle to get out of the way of 100-mph fastballs, how on earth do we expect young children to get out of the way?

It's actually insane. Time to bring some sanity into the stands. Time for all baseball teams, major and minor leagues, to make the decision that protecting its fans is far more important than protecting its old-fashioned, sentimental false purity.


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