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Fan Safety in Baseball

A pro player’s perspective on fan safety in baseball  Everyone goes to a game hoping to get a foul ball, but sometimes it can be extremely dangerous.

As another season is about to get under way with all of the expectations that go along with your favorite team.  The baseball stadiums around the country are getting ready for massive amounts of people to flood the gates to watch their favorite team play.  With all of the excitement that goes along with watching a professional baseball game, it is easy to forget about the potential dangers that don’t get much publicity.

Fan safety is very important but never talked about at great length or thought of as a priority at a baseball game.  This is a sour subject that no one wants to focus on because of the fun and excitement that goes along with being at a game.

Let me first start by saying that my wife and baby always sit behind a net.  If you talk to a player or a fan that frequents many games you are sure to hear stories of fast line drive foul balls that find the stands and sometimes innocent fans.

I won’t name specific stadiums, but I will tell you this – there are some stadiums where the closest seat to home plate is closer than the pitcher is to home plate.  

We have all seen a hard hit line drive up the middle at the pitcher.  Remember he is wearing a glove, knows how to use it and, is paying attention.  Even so, he still can’t defend himself on a hard hit ball.   In 2000, Red Sox  pitcher Bryce Florie was hit in the face and suffered broken bones and retinal damage.

Now think about that you may be closer than the pitcher is, you are not wearing a glove (even if you are you haven’t played since high school), you have nachos in your hand and you are paying attention but not expecting a ball to come screaming in your direction.  You are not making the play.

Luis Salazar.  A friend of mine Luis Salazar is a coach in the Atlanta Braves organization.  He was standing on the top row of the dugout in spring training when a line drive was hit off the bat and hit him in the head.  It came so fast he froze and couldn’t move.  The injury resulted in him losing an eye.

Death of a baby.  An extremely sad story resulted when a lady who was holding a baby had a foul ball hit the baby in the head and eventually took his life.  Even though she was about halfway between third base and the outfield fence, the ball came with such speed and has spin on it where sometimes it is difficult to know which direction to move.

Mike Coolbaugh.  I was with the Rockies double A affiliate for two years in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The year after I moved up the hitting coach Mike Coolbaugh was fatally struck by a foul ball while coaching first base.

These stories are all so sad and I feel for the families.  There may be many more stories like this that never get publicized.  I just want to be a voice to let you know of the dangers that can be involved with foul balls.  I know we don’t always have control over where we are sitting but just understand that you need to respect how hard baseballs are hit.

Tips for Staying Safe.  I know this isn’t a very uplifting blog post, but I have seen way to many accidents in the stands and I want to share my experiences with everyone so you too can have respect for the high speeds at which baseballs enter the stands and protect yourselves.  For your own safety, be sure to do one or more of the following:

  • Sit behind the net
  • Sit farther away
  • PAY ATTENTION

Sure, these tips aren’t rocket science, but sometimes we all need to be reminded of these things.  Don’t get so focused on eating your Cracker Jacks that you get hit in the face with a baseball.  If at all possible, keep children behind nets or at least far enough away where you can knock the ball down to keep them safe.  As adults, baseball safety is our responsibility.  We should assume that they are not paying attention and keep them safe.

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About the Author: Doug Bernier

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins' AAA team in Rochester, NY

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3 Comments

  1. Doug,
    I was at the Mets – Yankees game on April 3, 2012. You hit a rope over the Yankees dugout. I was about six rows back. The ball was heading right at me so I put my hand up in self defense and some how I actually caught it. It is the only foul ball I have ever caught or even come close to. Thank you for the ball and for not killing me. -Chris
    If there is any video of this please let me know. Thanx again

    • Chris,

      That is awesome, I remember hitting that ball and not even looking because I thought the foul ball was going to kill someone. I am glad you caught it and I am glad no one got hurt. Thanks for writing to me through our website and telling me about this. I have told my teammates and everyone loves the story. My wife has looked for video and there is no video of you catching the baseball but they do show you with the ball. I believe she just went to MLB.com and looked through the archives of baseball games. Thanks again and I am glad you got the baseball.

      Doug Bernier

  2. Doug,

    This was a very important, insightful and sobering message.

    db

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