Baseball Needs Better Fan Safety
Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. was left in tears after he struck a young girl with a batted ball during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros yesterday. The game was delayed for a few minutes and Almora Jr. was visibly shaken as she was being attended to.
The girl was taken to a Houston hospital and her condition was not disclosed. The line drive hit by Almora Jr. has renewed talk of Major League Baseball teams extending the protective netting to each foul pole. Last night, the girl who was hit at Minute Maid Park was sitting just a few feet from the end of the netting by the dugout.
HBO Real Sports did a special on fan safety in baseball games three years ago. In their trailer video, community volunteers in Pullman, Washington sitting behind protective glass had their reaction times studied after baseballs were fired at them from 75-feet at 95 miles per hour.
It is obvious from the video that these people could not come close to defending themselves. In the three years since this HBO Real Sports piece, the speed of baseballs often exceed 100 miles per hour. In Japan, they have protective netting that extends down each base line to the foul pole.
This season, Southwest University Park extend their protective netting past the visiting team dugout and down the first base line. Part of the reason was because they renovated the Fiesta Patio and turned it into a bar with couches and a large HD TV. Another reason is because that area is in the direct line of fire during El Paso Locomotive FC matches and MountainStar Sports Group was concerned about fan safety in that area during both soccer and baseball games. I hope they soon do the same for the third base line.
It is time that all of professional baseball follow the Japanese and extend the protective netting to each foul pole. There is no reason for a tragedy to have to prompt this move.