What Should the Cardinals do to Avoid the Increase in Injuries to Fans Around Baseball?
When we were little, we all did it. Brought our gloves to a game, hoping to catch a foul ball. Problem is, more and more people aren’t catching them with their glove, but rather their face.
On Wednesday, Todd Frazier laced a ball down the third base line and hit a young girl in the mouth. Clearly, all of the players were shaken up, and it begs the question, should nets be extended the entire way down the line?
Reasons for Extended Netting
Sure it might impede the view of the fan slightly, but it beats being hit in the face. For the Cardinals, two players average over 90 MPH in exit velocity, Jose Martinez, and Luke Voit. The fastest ball hit for the birds this season came off the bat of Randal Grichuk, at 113.3 MPH. While those numbers are quite scary, even a seventy MPH line drive will hurt if you are not paying attention.
Busch Stadium currently has netting that extends to the infield side of both dugouts, which seems like it should be relatively safe. But farther out, children or anyone who checks their phone for a second is at risk. In 2014 alone, 1,750 people were injured by foul balls according to Bloomberg News. Clearly, baseball needs to look towards other leagues for ideas.
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to pay attention, but given that the Cardinals, like most teams, are active on social media, sometimes it is hard to put away your cell phone. Protective netting could help solve this issue, but the Cardinals need to get on board first.
St. Louis Inspiration
For instance, take the NHL. Scottrade Center, home of the Blues, has glass surrounding all of the ice as well as nets behind the goals, just like any NHL arena. This makes plenty of sense, but it makes just as much sense for Busch Stadium to extend netting the entire way, deep into the outfield.
Hockey pucks certainly do not come into the Blues crowd at the velocity that they do at Busch because slap shots are stopped by netting. The pucks that reach the fans are deflected near center ice and often not all that hard.
The problem is, most of the netting was put up after 13 year old Brittanie Cecil was killed at a Columbus Blue Jackets game. Does baseball really want to wait that long? Even if not required, why would the Cardinals refuse to put up these nets?
One reason for pushback from fans might be losing a chance for foul balls. The screens will not stop anyone from getting a ball however. How likely would it be to get a ball without the netting anyway? About 1 in 570, with around 70 baseballs making their way into the seats.
Most of the spectators getting these souvenirs are children anyway, as it should be, so why put them at risk when a ball boy or girl could throw them up as they bounce off the netting? Even with nets, if Yadier Molina pops the ball down the first base line, it would go over the nets and still be catchable.
Cost might also be an issue, but given that the Busch Stadium was already outfitted correctly when the MLB forced teams to adopt the safety nets, the Cardinals are already at an advantage when it comes to money. Given that fan safety is at risk, it would be ridiculous for the Cardinals to decide against the netting.
If you would still rather leave things the way they are, or believe that baseball fans are “too soft” if they need the lining around the stadium, then ask yourself this. When was the last time you sat behind the netting at Busch? If you have ever sat in the expensive seats behind home plate, you have. I highly doubt you complained about the netting instead of watching the game.
If you haven’t sat behind the netting before, just remember that real Cardinals fans are at the game with you. You may be able to protect yourself, but most little children can’t.
As for the players, Frazier’s reaction to hitting the little girl is enough. Frazier, as well as most of the players on the field, went to a knee in utter disbelief. Most players are all for the extra protection. Greg Garcia said in June after hitting a fan with a foul ball, “I don’t care if fans say that makes the view worse. That’s not OK. I could have hit a little kid. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”
Even if the Cardinals wait on putting up extra netting, don’t let it deter you from going to Cardinals games. Just make sure you are always paying attention to the game, not only because the Cardinals are in the middle of a wild card race, but also because baseballs hurt if they hit you in the face.
Photo Captured By: USA Today Sports Jeff Curry
Statistics Courtesy of MLB.com