July 26, 2011
The tragic events of July 7th in Arlington shocked and saddened the baseball world.
A fan died doing what ever single one of us that uses this site has done so many times at a ballpark: reaching for a ball thrown by a player.
With the potential ramifications that this situation could have on ballhawking, I am surprised there has not been more discussion on it among ballhawks. Major League Baseball has been looking into beefing up safety measures to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.
"Major League Baseball has the utmost sensitivity to the safety of all the fans that come to our ballparks. Our players are encouraged to be fan-friendly and we will carefully review this incident with our clubs to continue to ensure a safe environment for our fans."
What could this mean for ballhawks? In the aftermath, some players decided that they were no longer going to throw balls into the stands before innings. From watching games at PNC Park since, I've noticed Andrew McCutchen stick to his word. He and the right fielder warm up close to the infield to avoid the situation. Since I've been able to attend just one batting practice this summer due to my internship, I have no idea if it has affected batting practice toss-ups.
There are other safety enhancements that I think could be made without having much of an effect on how the game is enjoyed from the outfield. For one, teams could start putting in table-top fences like the ones in right field at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Not only will fans be safe, but it also takes out the possibilities of fan interference on home runs.
The Texas Rangers announced that they will be raising railings at The Ballpark in Arlington. While this is the easiest way to ensure fan safety, I along with many other people, already have a tough enough time seeing over them in various areas of the ballpark.
There is no easy answer to ensure safety at ballparks. Quite frankly, I don't know how things like the tragedy in Texas don't happen more often. Since we are the ones who seem to frequent the outfields the most, what do you think should happen?
Steve Uhlmann is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.