Following the second freak incident in the crowd at a New York Yankees game, it’s time for Major League Baseball to take initiative.
The day was almost too perfect.
In front of a crowd of 30,099 at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, the New York Yankees were en route to an easy yet significant three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins. It basically solidified their postseason spot and gave fans confidence that the Bombers could make a serious run in October.
Amidst all the positive energy, the life of the Bronx crowd and players were ripped out of their bodies on one swing of the bat. In the fifth inning, Todd Frazier pulled a line drive foul, just beyond the third base dugout, at an exit velocity of 105 MPH. Suddenly, both teams stood speechless as they realized a two-year-old girl had been struck in the face.
As if the thought of a young girl being hit in the face with a ball at that velocity wasn’t enough, the reactions of Frazier and Matt Holliday said it all: it was devastating.
Following the contest, the Yankees released a statement saying the girl was receiving medical attention at an area hospital but were unable to give any further comment. It was the third incident in which a fan has suffered an injury thanks to a projectile flying into the stands from the field of play.
In May, a boy sitting behind the Royals’ dugout was hit by a piece of Chris Carter’s shattered bat. Back in July, a foul ball, also clocked at 105 MPH off the bat of Aaron Judge, made a man leave the game covered in blood. The Yankees considered adding netting for 2018 following the latter incident, but the question now remains: how long will it take for the Yankees to consider the well-being of their fans and follow through with this plan before an incident worse than Thursday’s occurs?
Just after the regular season commenced, New York councilman Rafael Espinal Jr. proposed legislation to require all city ballparks to extend netting from the area behind home plate to the foul poles at the end of both foul lines, during baseball games in New York City, in stadiums with a capacity of at least 5,000 spectators.
The Mets took action with no problems. The Braves, Astros, Royals, Twins, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, Rangers and Nationals also added extended netting. Those 10 teams understand the importance.
Since FanGraphs started tracking the percentage of a hitter’s batted balls that have been hit with a certain amount of power in 2002, this year ranks second in hard percentage at 31.8 percent. 2016 ranks third.
Furthermore, we have seen a ball hit at 117 MPH or greater 24 times this season with the hardest hit ball being registered by StatCast at 121.1 MPH. In 2016, three baseballs were hit over 120 MPH with the hardest hit baseball belonging to David Freese (123.4 MPH).
Baseballs are being hit harder than ever with the potential of doing detrimental damage to those fans who are up close and personal.
Major League Baseball has been encouraging extra protection for years and the three events that have sent die-hard fans to the hospital could have been avoided rather easily. The Yankees need to come to grips with reality before another fan gets seriously injured—or killed.