On June 27, 2019, I was listening to Golic and Wingo on ESPN. They were touching on a number of baseball topics and then got all serious for a moment. Mike Golic and guest Jeff Passan then made an impassioned plea for expanded netting at all Major League Baseball parks and called it one of the most pressing issues in the sport. What could be more important than fan safety?
Oh, about a thousand other things. Baseball has been around in stadiums around the United States for over 100 years now. Somehow, someway, millions of people have safely pushed through the turnstiles in various cities across all geographic locations and demographics.
Then, last week a 2 year old girl was injured at an Astros Game: A foul ball that smacked a girl sitting in the stands at an Astros' game cracked her skull, family attorney says. -CNN
That's not the Astros fault. The Houston Astros are in the business of Baseball. If it's not "safe" at a baseball stadium, YOU shouldn't have gone there.
What changed in America? Until about the 1980's, I think society accepted that there was a certain minimal inherent risk in going to a baseball game. Then, as football began to pass baseball as the national sport, baseball became more desperate as their popularity began to wane. They focused on the baseball "experience." Meaning new stadiums and catering to the casual fan. Now that you're protecting the casual fans, you know, the ones who want to text, mingle, and.....
"But Fred, that kid was only 2."
Exactly. There shouldn't be 2 year olds at a baseball game. By definition a 2 year old is a casual fan, because they aren't paying attention to the nuances of the game. How about instead of additional netting, how about we flip things around and ban children under 8 from professional baseball games.
"That's not fair."
I would say that its not fair that I have to watch baseball from behind a net because you can't leave your kid at Grandma's House for a night. What's got me so riled up? When I was in college, I would watch local college favorite Mankato State (now Minnesota State) in a cozy little arena. One night I was almost nailed by a slapshot that deflected off of a defender's stick and up about 30 rows. How did it miss me? I ducked.
"Kids don't have good reflexes."
In hockey, there didn't used to be nets. Then there were nets behind the goals, which was fine. You could buy tickets where there were nets or take your chances where there were no nets. After the death of fan Brittanie Cecil at an NHL game, netting behind the goals was mandatory. Same premise should apply to baseball. If you want to sit behind home plate, where netting already exists, fine. If you don't like the netting, there's lots of seats along the first and third base lines.
"Everyone should be protected."
Then sit behind home plate or sit far, far away where ya' ain't gonna get hit.
Our baseball stadium of choice is Sprenger Stadium in Avon, Ohio. There's not a bad seat in the house and I think the capacity is around 5,000. As a minor league stadium, they cater specifically to families. Guess what? They have a hill for kids 5 and under to roll down about 450 feet from home plate and bounce houses about 500 feet from home plate in the other direction. There is no drumbeat to add netting to Rookie ballparks. Why? Because there's no deep pockets to sue. Even though I love going to watch the Lake Erie Crushers, I imagine that suing them is like suing the local corner Mom and Pop Convenient Store. One large settlement and that business is going bankrupt. The Crushers have netting behind home plate and that's all they really need.
"Too bad for you, it is inevitable that Expanded Netting is coming."
A couple of weeks ago, my family watched the Evansville Otters stomp the Lake Erie Crushers. The Otters' relief pitcher was 5 foot 9 inches tall, weighed around 160 pounds and looked like he was swimming in his uniform. He stepped to the mound and his first pitch popped when it hit the catcher's glove. I looked on the scoreboard and it said the pitch was 92 MPH. Those who argue that MLB pitchers are pitching faster than ever obviously haven't been to a Minor League game lately. ALL pitchers are pitching faster than ever. Again, I'm not saying no nets. I'm saying nets behind the plates, and no nets up and down the lines. If you're afraid to sit on the third base line, every MLB park in North America has an upper deck far away from the scary action of baseball.
"It's time to invoke the Commissioner's best interest of baseball clause to get Expanded Netting done."
That argument angers me the most. When I think of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, I have a fairly neutral view of his performance. European Play for MLB? Meh. Pace of Game changes? Good, I guess. Does Expanded Netting fall under changes Rob Manfred should be championing? I say absolutely not. The last Commissioner sat on his hands during player strikes and the steroid era. If I made a list of the Top 100 problems in baseball, Expanded Netting wouldn't be on the list. If Manfred fixes Expanded Netting by citing the best interest of baseball, then he better get the hell crackin' on the other 100 problems, post haste.
"If it was your 2 year old that got hit at an Astros Game, you'd have a totally different opinion."
Yeah, guess what? I watched a replay of that ball going into the stands. When my kid was 2, I didn't have $166 of disposable income for me and my wife to sit in the Field Box of an Astros Game.
Maybe this what you should ban, right here:
Which is exactly what happened in this case. How about this, no children free. You force Mommy and Daddy to buy that Field Box seat, no worries. Even a newborn needs a seat for that Baby Bag that the parents are lugging around. You don't think that's fair either? You don't see too many 3 year olds sitting in that area. (Because they're not free.)
If you're a Scumbag Lawyer, your argument is easy. That 2 year old didn't buy a ticket, and didn't read the back of the ticket, so they deserve settlement money. Scumbag Lawyer gets paid. American Personal Responsibility erodes by a fraction of a percentage point.