• The Question Of Fan Safety At Baseball Games

    Posted by on January 24th, 2010 · Comments (3)

    An interesting piece on baseball fan safety that I noticed today in a Youngstown (OH) paper:

    Like many couples, Chad and Nicole Holko had to wait a little longer to finally have their first child.

    Luke was the Trumbull County couple’s medical miracle son.

    Four years into life, this past September, Luke pulled off another medical miracle.

    He was nearly killed when a foul ball struck him in the back of the head at a Mahoning Valley Scrappers game. It fractured his skull and caused a brain injury that left him essentially starting over in life — talking, standing, sitting and walking.

    Today, his progress has been substantial, said Chad.

    “He’s gone from sitting to standing to walking a couple steps,” Chad said of his 4-year-old miracle. “Speech that was hard to understand has now become understandable to us for just about everything.”

    Luke deserves to see another miracle.

    As much progress as he’s made, there’s not been as much with the Neanderthal thinking of professional baseball.

    Other sports leagues have not been as stubborn. At all levels of spectator hockey, including the Covelli Centre and the Ice Zone, there is protective netting around the end boards where pucks enter the crowd at the most-dangerous speeds.

    Sure, the National Hockey League needed a dead spectator in Columbus to revisit its loose approach to spectator safety. But, it did, eventually, take action.

    Baseball seemingly does not want to learn from hockey. More regretfully, it does not want to learn from Luke.

    Or from Californian Susan Rhodes, who took a bat to her jaw, shattering it.

    Or from Texan Maddie Emerson, who took a foul ball to the head and needed surgery to release pressure on the brain.

    Or Jane Costa, who was in the ballpark for 10 minutes when a foul ball screamed over a Fenway Park dugout and slammed into her face — breaking bones and causing permanent damage.

    Or Ronnie Zinner, whose scalp was split by a Derek Jeter foul ball. She bent over in her seat to set down some pizza a vendor had just sold to her. Had she been upright, the ball could have been a bull’s-eye between the eyes.

    One lawsuit I found reported that in a five-year span at Fenway, injuries caused by foul balls ranged from 36 to 53 fans per year. Multiply that stat by 300 professional baseball teams networked through Major League Baseball, and at minimum, you may have 10,000 fan injuries per year caused by foul balls.

    Here’s a sobering stat: There are more injuries in baseball stadiums than on commercial planes.

    Leigh Augustine’s Sport Law class at the University of Denver studied this and found that in 2006, there were 750 million rides on planes and only four serious injuries. Yet baseball had 35 injuries per 1 million visitors.

    Obviously, some ballparks are worse than others. Ones like Fenway Park and minor league stadiums, where the fans are right on top of the field, do present some dangers. It’s interesting to see some of the names mentioned in this report – mostly women and children. And, from my own personal experience, seeing fans get clocked with foul balls at parks, I would say that the majority of the time it’s a woman or a child.

    Why is that? Are women and children less likely to be paying attention to the action on the field at a ballpark and therefore are more likely to get hit by a foul ball? I dunno. And, I would hate to stereotype that way.

    In any event, fan safety is an issue at some ballparks. And, it would be nice if we never saw another story again about someone suffering a serious injury while attending a baseball game.

    Comments on The Question Of Fan Safety At Baseball Games

    1. January 24th, 2010 | 12:49 pm

      No offense to anybody, but if you are worried about your safty at a baseball game you can sit upstairs. Nobody forces anyone to sit close to the field. Not that I’m ever going to be able to afford sitting close to the field at Yankee Stadium, but I would not want any protective barrier between myself and I if I was sitting behind the dugout if I could.

    2. Corey
      January 24th, 2010 | 1:04 pm

      Rob Abruzzese wrote:

      No offense to anybody, but if you are worried about your safty at a baseball game you can sit upstairs. Nobody forces anyone to sit close to the field. Not that I’m ever going to be able to afford sitting close to the field at Yankee Stadium, but I would not want any protective barrier between myself and I if I was sitting behind the dugout if I could.

      Agreed 100%

    3. 77yankees
      January 24th, 2010 | 3:48 pm

      Ditto. If you have a child that you have to pay attention to 75% of the game (and we know they can be quite jittery and short of attention span) then you should be nowhere near the field.

      I was at a game in 1997 where Tim Raines lost his bat which hit a woman behind the Yankee dugout on the first pitch, and then on the 2nd, he hit a screaming foul ball behind the opposing dugout that would have hit a woman walking down the aisle in the head had she not put her forearm up to block it.

      The best prevention is common sense, because you don’t know if you’ll be able to react before it’s too late.

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