With a focus on Japan, fans are calling on MLB to protect the crowd from dangerous foul balls

Alexis Hoskey was 4 years old when she broke her skull in a baseball game.

It was a night like any other under the spotlight at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, one of the prettiest venues in MLB, in April 2011. Alexis’ father, Monty, got tickets through work and the family decided to go watch a game. – Alexis first.

There were others with them and the adults allowed Alexis and other kids to sit together. It was a $ 1 hot dog night at the court and the hometown royals faced the Minnesota Twins. The first stadium was just after 7 pm, so it was still lit.

Then, early in the match, Wilson Pettimet struck a foul ball that hit the stands.

“I saw the ball hit, and then in a flash – I’m sure I followed it – I saw it hit it,” Monte Hoske told The Japan Times by phone. “I didn’t treat it because it happened so quickly. I didn’t have a chance to respond. I even wondered if that happened or not, because it literally bounced off her head and landed three or four rows in front of her. She didn’t start crying, it was just a dazed look on her face.” It looked like 30 seconds, but maybe not. Then all of a sudden I started screaming and crying. “

Bad balls go into the stands during every baseball game. Sometimes a lucky fan crashes a souvenir. Other times, a 4-year-old will end up with an eye bruise and a brain haemorrhage. The danger is that there is no way of knowing what score you will get when you hit the ball.

There is virtually no way to react to balls moving at excessive speeds. The bad ball that hit a two-year-old in the 2019 match between the Cubs and Astros in Houston was 106 mph (171 kph). Not just children. During a press conference last week, Stephanie Wabinski, a Red Sox fan, said she kept scoring goals in matches and was always focused on action and only saw a flash of light when she was injured in 2015, when she was 36 years old. Baseball players sitting near Alexis apologized to him for not being able to respond quickly enough.

Longtime baseball fan Jordan Scoop asks why it should be this way. Scoop, a Brooklyn realtor and lifelong fan of the New York Mets, has called for MLB to install more networks, similar to what has been seen at NPB stadiums in Japan, to protect fans from wrong balls.

“MLB has for no reason established a mandate for all major and minor league teams to work with the independent netting board of engineers and architects to make sure that the fast balls do not get to the people, which they are unfortunately doing consistently,” said Scoop.

Skopp sent messages to MLB and appeared in various media outlets discussing the issue. He says his research shows that extending the nets into their stadiums will cost about $ 50,000. In 2019, he offered to pay the Mets and New York Yankees to have more nets installed in their stadiums. Skopp has also created a website and is currently working on a book on this issue. He gained support from other fans, some of whom joined his efforts.

Some MLB teams have extended the nets beyond covering the area behind the board and bunkers in recent years and said they would do more. But Scoop is skeptical.

In Japan, some NPB stadiums have grids that extend even spoiled poles. Most of them cover a large area below the baselines. Guides whistle to alert fans when balls are approaching and ads on the PA system and scoreboard accompany nearly every foul ball. The NPB system is not perfect. In 2015, a woman was injured and said she was seriously injured by a foul ball during a match in Sapporo Dome. She filed a lawsuit and was awarded 42 million yen ($ 405,000). However, the NPB setting protects the fans from some of the more dangerous balls.

“From the little exposure I got from Japanese baseball, it looks like people don’t get any hotspots as the balls will travel at very high speeds,” said Scoop. “If America repeated what was happening in Japan, people would no longer encounter stinky balls of 80, 90, 100, 110, 120 mph.”

The ball that struck Husky, who is now preparing for high school, caused a subdural hematoma, a condition in which blood collects between the skull and the brain. Her father says she was lucky that the pressure eased on its own so surgery was not required. Her eye was bruised and swollen for about two weeks. When I managed to open it, the area around my iris and pupil was bright red. She was in bed for two weeks and had several CT scans. She had had a headache for quite some time afterward and couldn’t be around a loud noise.

Her father says she was diagnosed with ADHD “due to a traumatic brain injury”.

“Obviously, I think they should stretch the net because of my injury,” she said. “I’m somebody that happened. I personally, obviously, think we should have more or more security to let people know that there is a strong possibility that a ball will get into this area or something like that.”

On October 1, 2019, an article published by NBC News said its investigation “found at least 808 reports of injuries to baseball fans from 2012 to 2019” in the MLB. The network noted that while some of the injuries were from running on the ground or from chasing the balls in the stands, most of them were the result of offending balls.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed this issue in 2019, shortly after a fan was hospitalized after being hit by a spoiled ball in Houston.

“Look, I think it’s important that we keep focusing on fan safety,” the Associated Press quoted Manfred as saying. “If that means the net has to bypass the bunker then so be it. Every stadium is different. The reason I hesitate with” Beyond the Hideout “, I mean a lot of clubs are already out of bunker. But there is a balance here. We have fans talking loudly about The fact that they don’t want to sit behind the net. I think we’ve struck a balance in favor of fan safety so far, and I think we will continue to do that in the future. “

Alexis Hoskey doesn’t think netting changes the fan experience.

“I’m sure it’s small, so you can still see the good stuff,” she said. “I think going to the match, if they don’t want to sit behind a net, sure, that’s their risk. But I don’t think they fully understand. It’s possible that they’re like,” Oh, we just want to enjoy the whole game. We could get hit, but it’s not a big deal.

“But the results of hitting one scale are so different that I don’t think they are thinking of all the possible consequences that would happen if they actually got hit by a baseball.”

Among the countless injuries caused by wrong balls, there are two recorded cases of death of fans after being hit in an MLB match.

The first was 14-year-old Alan Fish, who was injured during a game at Dodger Stadium in 1970 and died four days later. In 2018, 79-year-old Linda Goldblum died after being injured during a match at the same stadium.

Scoop insists MLB should have already taken action, likening the league to the US tobacco industry’s efforts to mask the effects of cigarette smoking.

“The network is the only way to prevent infection,” he says. “Children have not been allowed into baseball games in certain sections since 1970, when Alan Fish, aged 14. From that point onwards, I think baseball is like Big Tobacco. They had the information and decided not to share it with us. They didn’t tell us that This happens all the time, the speeding balls are heading towards you. “

Skopp plans to keep shouting until MLB listens.

“People should have the right to watch the games and not to think about the risk of their children being seriously injured,” he said. “Most people really have no idea this happens all the time.”

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