NEW YORK – It might be the shot heard around the baseball world: the rocket-like foul ball that hit a young girl at a Yankees-Twins game.
In the hours after the girl was struck in the face by the 105-mph screamer, the game's commissioner vowed to push harder for all teams to extend protective netting to the end of the dugouts and the Cincinnati Reds committed to do just that by next year. A U.S. senator urged the commissioner to "put the safety of your fans first" and extend nets at all ballparks.
"America's pastime is breaking America's heart. That little girl, that's everyone's daughter," said lawyer Bob Hilliard, who represents fans in a California lawsuit that seeks class action status to sue on behalf of 1,750 fans hit by balls and bats at games each year.
In a statement Thursday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred called the events "extremely upsetting."
"Over the past few seasons MLB has worked with our clubs to expand the amount of netting in our ballparks," Manfred said. "In light of [Wednesday's] event, we will redouble our efforts on this important issue."
About 10 of the 30 major league teams, the Yankees not among them, have extended the netting to the far end of the dugout. The Reds have promised to do it by next season's Opening Day.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Manfred in a letter to push to extend safety netting to all ballparks.
Hilliard's lawsuit seeks to go further, to force clubs to extend protective netting from foul pole to foul pole. But like other lawsuits, it was tossed out. An appeal will be heard in San Francisco in December.
Most of the fans struck by balls and bats at games each year suffer minor injuries, but a few have been critically injured or killed.
But fans might be unaware of the stark legal reality of baseball: Successfully suing teams over such cases is nearly impossible. The fine print on every baseball ticket comes with a disclaimer that the bearer "assumes all risk and danger incidental to the game."