After a 2 year old suffered a personal injury at Yankee Stadium on September 20, 2017, many fans, players and team staff are calling for mandated safety nets along foul ball lines at Major League Baseball parks across the country. To reduce the number of personal injuries, the MLB recommended in 2015 that teams add a safety net that extends 70 feet from home plate along both foul ball lines to protect fans from flying hazards. Several teams have voluntarily added the nets, including our home team, St. Louis Cardinals.New York Yankees 3rd baseman, Todd Frazier, hit a 100 mph+ ball which struck a young girl causing her to suffer serious personal injury. The girl was carried from the ballpark, unconscious. Her current state is not known. Frazier and many other players present for the personal injury were brought to tears. The girl was attending the game with her grandfather and was seated on the 3rd base line, approximately 3-4 rows from the field. New York’s other ballpark, Citi Field, where the New York Mets play, voluntarily added the nets to its field after the MLB made the recommendation. They had a fan injured in 2011 when a 12 year old’s face was shattered by a foul ball. Had Yankee Stadium installed the nets, as well, it’s likely the young girl would not have been injured.
Did the MLB do enough to prevent personal injury?
Although the league recommended adding the nets, the cost has been defrayed to the individual teams to add the netting. Since the risk of personal injury is greater without the nets, some critics have suggested that the MLB either mandate the change or that they should cover the cost for the upgrades. A lawyer for the MLB stated that the nets are expensive and that some teams cannot afford the installation. Since each ballpark has its own unique features, it is hard to determine what the median cost would be since each ballpark’s needs vary. The MLB is reportedly a $9 Billion per year business. Proponents for adding the nets have pointed out that the organization could easily afford to add the nets to the ballparks to reduce the risk of personal injury to its fan base.
Additionally, the MLB does not keep a record of the incidences of personal injury to fans at their games. A 2014 Bloomberg News investigation found that approximately 1,750 fans suffer personal injury in MLB ballparks each year. The theory is that the MLB is unconcerned with the risk of fan personal injury because the nets could cause a decrease in ticket sales. Many think that the nets will impede the view from the most expensive seats in the park, which could lead to fans buying seats in other areas so they can watch the game with an unimpeded view.
When do profits outweigh the danger from personal injury?
In 2015, a woman attending a Boston Red Sox game sustained massive head personal injury when struck by a broken bat. Likewise, two separate instances at Turner Field in 2010 left two fans with a major personal injury – one suffered vision loss in one eye and the other suffered a fractured skull. Another fan in L.A. suffered personal injury when they were struck in the jaw by a broken bat. Some think that the popularity of Maple bats among players has led to an increase of personal injury by broken bats.
In 2003, the National Hockey League mandated netting be added to all hockey rinks across the league after a 13 year old was struck by a puck and killed at a Columbus Blue Jackets game. The MLB could easily follow suit to help decrease the personal injury instances that occur each year.
As a precaution, New York City Councilman, Rafael L. Espinal, Jr. has scheduled a meeting for October 25, 2017 to attempt to mandate the netting be added to all New York ballparks.
The New York Yankees will likely not be held liable for the young girl’s personal injury due to the decades-old legal standard, “The Baseball Rule,” which absolves teams from liability when a fan is injured during the course of play. Although teams are not liable, many have voluntarily paid medical bills for fans who suffered personal injury at the ballparks. We hope that this trend continues and that baseball teams will add the extra netting in a timely manner. America’s favorite past time doesn’t need this black cloud looming over it.