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Ribbie’s Rants: The White Sox Are Putting Safety First

The White Sox are very rarely a team that one thinks of when it comes to being ahead of the curve in baseball.  Last Tuesday, they were the first team in Major League Baseball to extend their nets beyond the dugout and move them to the foul pole. 

Two events seem to have really moved the White Sox into making this move. The first being an event that took place in Houston with Albert Almora Jr., who sent a rocket into the stands leading to a young girl being sent to the hospital.  The two – year old sitting in the stands received a skull fracture, according to a press release from her lawyers yesterday.  The second being one that took place at Guaranteed Rate Field, with Eloy Jimenez taking to the plate and sending another fan in the stands to the hospital. 

This issue was brought to light to me in a recent Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel episode, the trailer which can be seen here.  As you can see in the video, the reaction time of a fan is not close to what it needs to be to keep them safe.  With the exit velocity on the rise over 100 MPH, we can see where the trouble lies. The ball is moving faster so we cannot get out of the way. 

Not so fast my friend, while the balls are exiting faster, we the fans have also created a portion of the problem. Since 1992, including the stadium that our beloved Pale Hose play in, we are sitting closer to the action than ever before.  “Fans today frequently sit more than 20 percent closer to home plate than was the case throughout most of the 20th century,” said study author Nathaniel Grow, an associate professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.   Our demand has put us in those seats, and now we can’t defend ourselves. 

The Tokyo Dome in Japan

There has been one response to this issue in Japan.  They have created an area that they label as “Excite Seats.”  These seats sit inside the netting, and come with a mitt and helmet for you to use, if you see the need.  Also in the attached video clip, you see how they treat foul balls at games. This includes a whistle alerting fans of where the foul ball is at all times for every person.  While I really don’t see this happening at MLB games, at least the Japanese are doing something about this issue, whereas most of MLB has not done so.

Finally, let’s look at the players’ perspective.  Almora Jr. was so grief-stricken that he had to leave the game after his incident.  He would go on to say, “As soon as I hit it, the first person I locked eyes on was her.”  Let’s think about this for a minute. They have to witness these injuries first hand knowing they are responsible for that injury, and that it could have been prevented. 

Sean Doolittle responded on twitter saying, “Baseball should absolutely extend the nets down the lines to protect fans. As new ballparks bring fans closer to the action, their safety should be a top priority. As players, we want fans to be able to safely and comfortably enjoy the game without fearing for their safety.” 

After hearing about the extension of the nets, White Sox pitcher and All-Star hopeful Lucas Giolito added, “I hate seeing young kids get hit, having to go to the hospital. It just leaves a sick feeling in all of our stomachs. At the end of the day, I think it’s the right move.”  Exactly, it’s just the right move. When will the rest of the Major League Baseball do the same?

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