I’ve only been a dad for 3 1/2 years, but I can neatly divide my memories and lifestyle into two distinct categories: B.C. (before children) and A.C. (after children). They ways in which life changes after you have kids is a subject for a book, not a blog post, but one new habit is particularly relevant right now.
Before having kids — I have one daughter who will be 4 in March and another daughter who will be 1 in November — going to a baseball game often meant finding the best seats available. It at least meant sitting wherever I wanted to was an option.
Once we started taking our girls to baseball games, the strategy changed. We wanted to sit in seats that were easy-in, easy out … close to the bathrooms … and far enough away from home plate that a batted ball could not reasonably reach us.
That last bit might seem like overprotection — particularly for someone like me, who has attended hundreds of baseball games and tried desperately to get a foul ball but has never even come close to getting one. If some people are magnets, I’m a deflector shield.
Still, the thought of a ball coming anywhere near my kids is enough to influence my ticket-buying.
So I watched with particular horror, as many of you did, when a screaming hot foul ball — 105 miles per hour — hit a girl about my oldest daughter’s age in the face during Wednesday’s Twins/Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. She was sitting with her grandparents in lower-level seats.
The immediate discussion afterward was predictable but it was not wrong. Players such as Brian Dozier called for additional safety netting near the field. MLB recommended between the 2015 and 2016 seasons that teams add more netting near the ends of the dugouts. The Twins installed additional netting at Target Field before the 2016 season. The Yankees have talked about it, but they haven’t done it yet.
Eduardo Escobar was upset at the adults watching the young girl, saying they should have paid closer attention. She was reportedly there with her grandparents.
In a bigger picture, we have a snapshot of a parent’s worst nightmare combined with what parenting looks like in 2017.
It’s a worst nightmare because it’s one of those situations where something awful happened that was unexpected but preventable — and it happened on someone else’s watch. Modern society, and particularly modern parenting, is designed to convince us to do everything we can to prevent bad things from happening.
We live in a fear-based world, and being responsible for the well-being of our kids fuels that. You can read plenty about parental anxiety these days — how it is on the rise, how it impacts kids and what to do about it.
When parents have rare moments to breathe and think rational thoughts, they usually realize this: We can’t put our kids inside a protective bubble, but we can make their lives as safe as possible — within reason.
We buy protective car seats, but we don’t stop driving. We put helmets on kids when they ride bikes, but they still ride. We take our kids to baseball games, but we do our best to keep them safe.
The grandparents who brought the little girl to Wednesday’s game weren’t being reckless by any stretch. They sat where I wouldn’t sit, and they weren’t protected by a net that has been installed at other stadiums, but the chances of a little girl getting hit in the face by a ball were still extremely low.
But it happened, and it was so awful. If it makes the Yankees put up a net, or makes you think twice about where you sit at a ballgame, that’s probably a good thing. More nets and more deliberate thinking, though, can’t account for every situation.
If what happened Wednesday makes you want to never bring your kids to a baseball game or even let them out of your sight? That might be even worse.