June 05, 2019
By: Dan Fremuth
By now, I'm sure many of you have seen the video from last week's game between the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park in Houston where Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. sent a screaming line drive into foul territory on the third base side which then struck a four-year-old child in the stands. Almora watched the entire trajectory of the liner and almost instantly clasped his hands around his head in shock at what had just transpired. The child was instantly rushed up the stairs and to a hospital. Almora was visibly shaken throughout the remainder of his at bat and during the next half inning, he made his way over to the third base stands in an exchange that ended with Almora weeping in the arms of a security officer stationed near that section.
It was a terrifying, awful and traumatic moment that never should have been allowed to take place.
Before the 2018 season, all 30 MLB parks were required to extend protective netting to, at the very least, the ends of each dugout. It's time to take the next step. Safety netting must, and I mean MUST, be extended from foul pole to foul pole. And it needs to be done now.
There doesn't need to be a Board of Governor's meeting to vote on it. It doesn't need to pass through the MLB Player's Union. It needs to happen today. In fact, I honestly can't believe Commissioner Rob Manfred hasn't mandated it already.
Detractors will say it will impact their view of the game and that it's distracting looking through the netting. That's nonsense.
Some of the highest-priced tickets in any ballpark are those directly behind home plate. Would anyone pass up the opportunity to sit there because they have to look through netting? And since protective netting was installed to the dugouts in 2018 people have gotten used to looking through it. It will be distracting for the sum total of 3 innings and then you'll get over it. And if you don't, well then isn't it fortunate there's a whole slew of unobstructed seats in the outfield to choose from?
Also, the notion that we're simply doing this to cater to millenials glued to their phones and not paying attention to the game is also hogwash. I doubt very much the 4-year-old in Houston was striving for the perfect selfie when she was struck last week. Nor do I suspect Snapchat or Instagram were open on the phone of 79-year-old Linda Goldbloom who was hit by a foul ball at Dodgers Stadium last August and died four days later. That's right, someone has already died and yet we still don't have full protective netting.
Players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever. Pitches come to the plate harder than they've ever come before, and batters are turning them around harder and faster than the game has ever seen. It's almost physically impossible for a human being to react to the velocity of foul balls sent screaming into foul territory.
Isn't it convenient then that we have a solution to set those human frailties at ease?
To Major League Baseball, please don't delay anymore than you already have. The solution is a simple one. All you have to do is act.