John Steigerwald: Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. not to blame for girl’s injury | TribLIVE.com
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John Steigerwald: Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. not to blame for girl’s injury

John Steigerwald
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AP
The Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. (center) takes a knee as Jason Heyward (left) and manager Joe Maddon talk to him after he hit a foul ball into the stands during the fourth inning against the Astros on Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Houston. The foul ball struck a 4-year-old girl.

Somebody owes Albert Almora Jr. an apology.

Almora is the Chicago Cubs outfielder whose line drive struck a 4-year-old girl Wednesday night in Houston. His emotional reaction received almost as much attention as the little girl being carried up the aisle by her father.

Almora Jr. seemed to be blaming himself, and that’s a shame. He was doing his job, which is trying to hit a baseball.

There are two places where you can lay the blame. On the Astros for not having their protective netting extended farther down the left-field line or the little girl’s father for sitting in unprotected field-level seats with a 4-year-old girl.

Sorry, but I blame the father.

Even if the Astros deserve criticism or blame for a lack of protection, the girl’s father saw there was no netting and chose to let his daughter sit there.

Most of the media criticism has been aimed at the Astros and Major League Baseball for being too slow to put up the nets, and maybe some of the criticism is justified. But, despite the huge amount of attention paid to the safety issue the last two or three years, people still are making the choice to sit in those seats.

Attendance is down in Major League Baseball, but all you have to do is turn on any game and you’ll see all the evidence you need that the unprotected seats are still the most popular.

The New York Times headline Saturday read, “A Foul Ball, An Injured Little Girl And Another Cycle Of Anguish Without Answers.” The story includes interviews with several players, all of whom are in favor of more netting.

It also includes comments from Geoffrey Jacobson, whose 2-year-old daughter ended up in the hospital with multiple facial fractures and bleeding on the brain after being hit with a foul ball at Yankee Stadium two years ago.

“At some point it all falls on the victims to speak up,” he said.

Of course a 2-year-old victim isn’t going to speak up. If she could, she might ask why her 66-year-old grandfather thought it was a good idea to sit right behind the Yankees dugout with her on his lap.

Nowhere in this story that is looking for answers are the parents asked why they would put their kids in that kind of danger.

How could any father who’s ever been to a Major League Baseball game allow his 2-year-old daughter to sit directly behind the dugout? And how is it anyone’s fault but his if she ends up getting hit with a foul ball?

People have been aware of the danger that comes with sitting at field level for more than 100 years. Bringing infants and toddlers to games seems to be a fairly new phenomenon.

A few years ago, a video of a man making a one-handed catch of a fly ball behind the first-base dugout, while holding an infant in the other hand, went viral. Announcers everywhere cheered the great catch.

I didn’t hear anybody ask why a father would sit in those seats with an infant in his arms.

Fans never have been more aware of the danger than they are now, but those seats still are filled, and they would be filled if the nets never had gone up.

There’s room for debate about whether adults, who can sit anywhere they want, should be able to decide whether to live dangerously at a baseball game, but is there anybody who doesn’t think sitting there with an infant or a toddler borders on child endangerment?

Here’s an idea: For fans who are too stupid to avoid bringing their babies with them to the dangerous seats, how about teams creating an age and/or size requirement for certain sections?

They do it for some rides at Kennywood.

The father of the little girl in Houston will be contacted by Almora, if he hasn’t been already, and he should tell Almora that he appreciates his concern.

Then he should apologize for his stupidity.

John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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