It really shouldn’t be this hard.
Major League Baseball needs to extend its protective netting before it’s too late. There is no good counterargument. None.
Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the players and managers themselves.
“Somebody is going to get killed, honestly, the way balls are going into the stands; it is scary,” Rangers skipper Chris Woodward told reporters in Texas. “I wouldn’t be opposed to nets all the way down. I don’t know if fans would be, but if they saw what we saw on a daily basis... they remembered little girls’ faces being blown up and kids getting hit in the chest and not breathing, I think they would be OK with it.”
Let’s debunk the most common arguments against extending the nets:
1. It obstructs my view
OK, there’s netting behind the plate at every single ballpark, and I don’t know a single person that’s ever turned down those tickets, do you? Also, Fenway Park has poles in the grandstand and seats facing the wrong way. It wasn’t exactly designed by an optometrist.
2. I want to catch a foul ball
There’s a far better chance of a 115 mph liner off J.D. Martinez’s bat catching you than of you catching it. And you can still catch a pop up, a far safer ball to make a play on, as the nets are just 12 feet high in most areas.
Or you could sit in the center field granstands and try to catch a home run ball, which you’ll see coming from 400 feet away and is way cooler than a foul anyway.
3. “People shouldn’t be on their phones, they should be watching the game,” your grandfather may yell.
That’s flawed for a couple reasons. It’s 2019 and as mind-numbing as smartphones may be, they’re our reality now. Beyond that, some fans at the ballpark are legitimately defenseless either way.
Take the two-year-old in Houston last week. If you missed that one, here’s what happened: Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. fouled a ball into the stands and it hit a little girl so hard that she needed to be hospitalized.
“As soon as I hit it, the first person I locked eyes on was her,’’ Almora said.
He immediately threw his hands on his head, screamed “Oh my God!” so loud you could hear it on the broadcast, and then doubled over.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon ran out to try to calm him down and Wade Miley walked off the mound, too, but there was nothing they could say to undo the liner. After two minutes, Almora stepped back into the batter’s box and waved wildly at strike three. His mind was clearly elsewhere. Between innings he ran out to the section to check on the girl, met a security guard and wept in her arms.
“I had to try to keep my composure during that at-bat, but when that half-inning was over, I just couldn’t hold it anymore,” Almora told reporters after the game. “Right now, I’m just praying and I’m speechless. I’m at loss of words.
“Being a father, two boys ...” his voice trailed off. “But God willing, I’ll be able to have a relationship with this little girl for the rest of my life. But just prayers right now, and that’s all I really can control.’’
This is a problem that Major League Baseball can control.
In 2018, the league made netting extending to the far ends of the dugout mandatory, but obviously it’s not far enough. After the incident in Houston, the league issued a statement to make it clear they were paying attention.
“The events at last night’s game were extremely upsetting,” Major League Baseball said. “We send our best wishes to the child and family involved. Clubs have significantly expanded netting and their inventory of protected seats in recent years. With last night’s event in mind, we will continue our efforts on this important issue.”
So what will it take?
The National Hockey League installed netting behind the goals after Brittanie Cecil, a 13-year-old girl, was struck in the head with a puck and died in 2002.
Let’s hope Major League Baseball doesn’t wait that long.
Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason