There is a young fan in a hospital in New York, recovering from injuries suffered when a foul ball traveling at 105 miles per hour struck her in the face Wednesday during a game between the Twins and Yankees.
Players in that game were visibly shaken, the Twins’ Brian Dozier and the Yankees’ Matt Holiday were at the point of tears, as the game was halted while the fan was attended to.
Yankees officials now vow to take a hard look at extending the protective netting behind home plate. The Reds, Padres, Rockies and Mariners since have announced plans to extend protective netting at their stadiums.
It’s commendable that teams have acted to limit the chances of a potential life-changing event occurring at their parks. The issue here is that it’s reactive. Why does someone have to suffer before change is enacted? Foul balls and flying bats have been potential disasters for decades.
Why won’t Commissioner Rob Manfred upgrade his nearly two-year old ‘‘recommendation’’ of extra netting to a full-fledged demand?
The National Hockey League acted swiftly in 2002 when 13-year old Brittanie Cecil died two days after being struck in the temple by a deflected puck during a game in Columbus. The NHL installed netting in the areas behind each goal. And never looked back.
MLB teams have protective netting that, in most parks, extends from behind home plate to the nearest end of each dugout. According to the Washington Post, the number of ballparks with extended netting will be at 14, once the aforementioned teams expand theirs.
The Twins were one of the first to extend netting to the far end of each dugout, announcing their intentions about a month after Manfred made the recommendation in the fall of 2015.
On Saturday, Twins President Dave St. Peter said the club has been considering expanding protected areas at the ballpark. The seven-foot extension could be raised, extended further down each foul line and/or changed to a color that makes it easier to see through.
“It’s definitely something we are looking at,” St. Peter said.
Some have laid responsibility on parents to protect their kids at games. Others have complained about fans constantly being on their smartphones at games.
First of all, there is almost no time to react a slicing 105 mph rocket. There are people (hand raised) who can’t even catch a foul ball fluttering back to the press box.
And the smartphone crowd is being conditioned by the league to use apps to order concessions, research STATCAST fodder or send selfies to each club’s twitter account. That’s not going to change.
All preventive measures need to be taken avoid gut-wrenching moments such as the one at Yankee Stadium. Teams need to act — or be ordered to act — to protect their fans as much as possible.
Cleveland: The Indians went 27-1 over 28 games before losing Friday night at Seattle. It is a run matched only by the 1884 Providence Grays. Included were a team-record 14 consecutive road victories and a 22-game win streak, which ended Sept. 15. “I never thought there would be a letdown,” manager Terry Francona said. “All the things that I say, and I know sometimes people roll their eyes, but it’s why we do it. We play the game today. If you do that, there’s no reason to have a letdown.”
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Kansas City: The Royals, hoping for a wild-card spot, still will be rebuilding next season. Manager Ned Yost left no doubt that he wants to return, however, rather than retire or seek another job. He told a radio station Friday, when asked if he was 100 percent coming back, “Oh yeah, no doubt. We’ll get through this year and see what direction we go in next year.” Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Jason Vargas and Lorenzo Cain all will be free agents.
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Detroit: Brad Ausmus had a pretty good team when he took over as Tigers manager four seasons ago, but his reign ended with a whimper when GM Al Avila said Ausmus won’t be back. Ausmus was 312-326 entering Saturday’s game against the Twins, with one playoff appearance, in his first season. Said Ausmus: “I probably wouldn’t have come back because I think this team, this organization is starting over. They need a new voice.”
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Chicago: Chris Volstad got his first major league victory in five years on Thursday, replacing an injured Carson Fulmer in the first inning and beating the Astros 3-1. His last win came for the Cubs, in September 2012, pitching against the same Astros pitcher he beat Thursday, Dallas Keuchel.
The 3-2 pitch
Three observations …
• Oakland first baseman Matt Olson is a young power hitter to watch. He hit his 24th homer Friday in just 57 games with the A’s. He has 47 homers in 136 games between the majors and minors this year.
•Carlos Beltran has donated $1 million toward hurricane relief in his native country of Puerto Rico, as well as set up a web page to accept donations.
• It would make sense for the Tigers to reach out to former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire about their opening. Gardenhire, the bench coach with Arizona, knows the club from division battles. And Jim Leyland, a special assistant with the Tigers, always has been a big Gardenhire supporter.
… and two predictions
• The Twins will wrap up a wild card spot on Friday, becoming the first team to go from 100-plus losses to a playoff berth in one season.
• Doug Mientiewicz will land with either the Red Sox (World Series connection), Cubs (Theo Epstein connection) or Phillies (Terry Ryan connection).