There is a Sunday morning radio show I listen in on during baseball season called "Talking Baseball with Ed Randall" (hosted, by no small coincidence, by a guy named Ed Randall.) The show normally focuses more on issues within baseball and less with the day-to-day of the season. He usually has some former players and managers on as guests and I've always enjoyed listening to it. I don't listen every Sunday and I rarely listen to the whole show but when I'm in the car I enjoy what he has to say. The show runs from March until the end of the baseball season, and then Ed takes some time off. So, it just kicked off again recently.
Anyway, I was listening this morning and the topic of discussion was safety netting and should MLB mandate increased use of netting for fan safety. They had a few people on who had been hit with baseballs or broken bats and suffered serious injuries. They also referenced this
2014 article from Bloomberg. 1,750 fans a year are hit by foul balls. I had no idea it was that many. And, when you buy a ticket to an MLB game one of the stipulations is that you assume all the risk for a ball or bat heading into the stands. But, that doesn't really absolve baseball of culpability.
I kind of shrugged off the idea of pushing for more nets, but, after reading this, I think they should protecting people up to at least the dugouts. It's easy to say "fans should be paying attention" but the reality is that they don't. And, baseball encourages them not to. Every park has free wifi. They put things up on the jumbotron encouraging you to take pictures of yourself and friends/family and send them in so they can end up on the jumbotron. Modern attention spans are pretty bad but baseball is actively encouraging fans to pay attention to things other than the action on the field. And then they claim it's your fault for not paying attention? How does that work?
And, paying attention is not a guarantee you can avoid being hit anyway. You are crammed into a seat and in those areas in the danger zone, getting out of the way is easier said than done. One of the thing baseball tracks now is "exit velocity" of a hit ball. Some of these balls are coming off the bat and well over 100 mph. If you're sitting between home plate and the dugout, and the batter is late on a fastball and sends it towards you, it's probably coming at you at a speed in excess of 90 mph. You're 50 feet away - maybe. You may be paying complete and total attention, see the ball coming and it is likely there is not a damn thing you can do about it. And, these thin handled ash bats blow apart. One of them blows apart and heads towards you, where are you supposed to go? Climb over the person to your left or right?
They should expand the netting. If that many people are getting hit, they should expand the netting to at least the seats up to the dugout, because that has to be the zone of danger. I can't believe, given the numbers, it's really a debate.