Mark Madden: More MLB netting a good idea, but so is common sense |
Mark Madden, Columnist

Mark Madden: More MLB netting a good idea, but so is common sense

The Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. wipes away tears after checking on a young child who was struck by his foul ball during the fourth inning against the Astros on Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Houston.

Rory McIlroy drilled a spectator in the head with a tee shot in the PGA’s Memorial Tournament on Friday.

Perhaps golf should border the fairways with protective netting.

The subject of more protective netting became sadly relevant last Wednesday when a foul ball hit by the Chicago Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. struck a 4-year-old girl at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. The girl was hospitalized.

By 2018, all MLB parks had extended their protective netting to the end of each dugout farthest from home plate. But the little girl in Houston sat in a section beyond the netting.

Now MLB seems likely to run the netting to the foul poles or something roughly equivalent.

But what happens when somebody gets hurt by a home run? Will all ticket-buyers be encased in bubble wrap upon entry?

A 79-year-old woman was killed by a foul ball at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium last year. In 2017, a 2-year-old girl suffered critical injuries when a foul ball hit her in the face at Yankee Stadium.

Prior to last season’s tragedy at Los Angeles, only two fans ever had been killed by balls entering the stands. But hundreds are hurt each year. The odd bat, broken or otherwise, also can invade the seating area.

The protective netting doesn’t ruin the view. It does take away some of baseball’s intimacy and reduces the possibility of catching a foul ball. (If you don’t think that’s a big deal, consider how many people in the stands have gloves.)

Hockey faced a similar crisis when a puck flew into the stands and killed a 13-year-old girl at a Columbus Blue Jackets game in 2002.

The NHL put netting above the glass behind each net. Many fretted about the potential negative effect for spectators, but it was negligible. Now, it’s not even noticed. The netting is just part of the game.

But those attending baseball games (and all sporting events) have some responsibility, too.

A small child or elderly person never should be seated anywhere that isn’t shielded by protective netting. Because small children rarely attend games by themselves, it’s incumbent upon the parents to utilize common sense and maybe more beyond that applied to location.

Why do parents take infants or toddlers to sporting events? Those children are not at all cognitive of what’s going on. Here’s guessing they would rather be at home, away from the crowd, noise and lights. Parents can display their trophy baby at plenty of places that don’t have potentially lethal flying spheroids whizzing about.

If you’re an adult and can react or defend yourself from said flying spheroids, here’s more common sense: pay attention.

In 2015, a woman sitting directly behind home plate at PNC Park was struck in the back of the head by a foul ball. Play was in progress. She was going to her seat. She faced away from the field. The ball pushed back the protective netting and whacked her in the head.

The key phrase there is “faced away from the field,” followed closely by “play was in progress.”

The woman sued the Pirates and the company that installed the netting. The Pirates made a cash settlement. The netting company won.

But the woman doesn’t get injured, and her suit isn’t filed if she’s paying attention.

Everyone is on their smartphone 24/7, even when attending a sporting event that should provide a distraction from the distraction of the smartphone. It’s a way of pretending your life is more important than it is.

It’s a wonder more MLB attendees don’t have “Rawlings” tattooed on their foreheads.

To be fair, clunking a fan at PNC Park has that needle/haystack vibe going most games.

More netting will give the athletes more peace of mind. Almora was inconsolable in the wake of last Wednesday’s incident even though he was not remotely at fault.

So extend the netting. Get it over with. Nobody should have a problem with that. Safety first.

But insufficient netting wasn’t the sole cause of the terrible occurrence at Houston. Negligence played a part. A 4-year-girl sat in an area not protected by netting when safer options were available.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.