To the fellow parents who are die hard baseball fans fully aware of the dangers of line drives or broken bats, this piece is not for you. This is to the parents, like me, who expect go out for an innocent night of family fun at the ballpark and are not fully aware of just how dangerous it can be.
Last May, my life was forever changed. My children had earned free tickets to a local minor league baseball game through a reading program at school. It was a beautiful spring evening, there were to be fireworks after the game.
We were there with all of my childrens’ classmates and their families. It was nearing the ninth inning, and by this time, the kids were growing restless. Many of them migrated out of their seats down to the first row to be as close to the action as they could. They were standing against the concrete wall that separated the fans from the field. Judging by the number of parents who were taking these kids back to their seats, which were none, I think we can all learn a lesson here.
You see, I was in my seat just a few rows behind the kids when I heard my husband yell, “Heads up!” The next thing I know, I was hit smack in the eye by a line drive. The ball was traveling over 100 mph. I had less than a second to react, virtually no time. I was rushed to the trauma unit and did not come home for three days. The injury has left me blind in my right eye. This will be permanent.
I have found through advocating for fan safety that this is a common occurrence and the injuries suffered are just devastating. Prior to that night, I thought that if a ball headed my way I would be able to catch it or simply move out of the way. This is not the case; there isn’t even time for your brain to fully process what is happening, let alone a child’s. Recently, a seven-year-old boy was struck in the head at a college stadium in Missouri. He remains in ICU with a long recovery ahead. And we have all read about the toddler who suffered a terrible injury at Yankee Stadium last fall. Whether it be a major league, minor league, college or local ballpark, they all present the same danger.
Parents, please be careful at ballparks. They have so many family-friendly promotions and they want you to come and have a good time, all while they do very little to protect the fans from the dangers of line drives and broken bats. Baseball organizations do a terrible job of fully warning the public of these dangers. They know it happens often, they’ve seen it year after year, yet they have failed to protect us.
My injury happened at a minor league park where you are much closer to the real dangers of line drives. When you attend baseball games with children, please sit in the seats behind the protective netting. If you don’t feel safe where you are seated, you can ask to be moved. Also, do not assume because there is no netting past the dugouts that it must be safe, I was sitting beyond the dugouts and I have talked to many others who were badly injured while sitting past the dugouts. It is just as dangerous.
I learned all of this the hard way. Now I feel it is my duty to warn others. I am doing all I can to prevent this from happening to anybody else ever again. If your local ballpark does not have netting that extends to the foul poles or, at the very least, to the far end of the dugouts, I implore you to contact them and ask why. Your safety should be their number one priority.