Wednesday, June 10, 2015

MLB. Put up safety nets?

It appears Major League Baseball is considering whether to put up safety nets to protect fans from bats (splintered or whole) and balls flying into the stands at high speeds. Recently, a woman at Fenway Park in Boston was severely injured when a jagged piece of a broken bat struck her. It was a life-threatening event at the time and she still remains hospitalized. And, of course, we've long occasionally heard reports of people, even kids, getting zapped by a line drive.

The advocates for putting up nets in the "danger zone", which is roughly from dugout to dugout -- or first to third base -- have some valid points.

After a wayward puck in a hockey game killed a spectator, the NHL put up nets surrounding both goals so that could never happen again. How many times a fan had been struck by a puck in the past and the severity of any injuries incurred over the years is unknown, but it's likely quite a few, with various degrees of harm. Hockey fans sitting in such seats have become used to viewing the action through the nets. Baseball fans would as well.

There's certainly no disputing most every baseball park, from the little leagues on up to the majors has long had a net (or fencing) protecting the fans sitting behind home plate. Lots of pitches get fouled "straight back" and protecting the fans from routine incoming high-speed projectiles would seem to be a very good idea. And the people that prefer to sit behind home plate, which are expensive seats, got used to the net as well. It's kind of like living near a railroad or airport. After a while, people have a way of tuning out the noise. So why not put up the nets to ensure a future tragedy can't happen?

But for every point, there's a counterpoint. The people against the nets have an equally valid argument.

After all, seating in the lower deck between first and third base is prime territory, typically inhabited by season ticket holders. They pay big bucks for those seats and if they don't want their close-up view hampered by having to look through a net -- then where do others get off telling them nets are for their own good? They could further argue MLB has been around for well over 100 years without such nets, so they have tradition on their side as well. Yes, occasionally a tragedy will occur, but doesn't that happen in all walks of life? The chances of getting hit by a splintered bat are likely less than getting struck by lightning, but people still freely travel around during thunderstorms.

And there's the little matter of souvenir baseballs. Most every fan's dream is to catch/retrieve one while at the ballpark, and the nets would take away countless such mementos.

So the question becomes thus: Should safeguards be imposed on people that don't want them? The seatbelt thing seemed to work out over time, but nets in major league parks? To protect people that willingly drop $300-400 for seats up close to the action?

There's a better way. Ban cell/smart phones in these stadiums. Yours truly has long wondered what kind of person goes to a ballpark to watch a game, only to spend 90% of their time on their mobile addiction. A game is typically 2-3 hours. Is it asking too much for them to go that long without tweets, texts, and selfies? Besides, while their snoots are concentrating on apps, they're not paying attention to what's going on in the game, supposedly the reason for their attendance in the first place. No wonder incidents of fans being struck by bats and balls has recently been on the rise. They can't duck what they never see coming.

One is left to wonder where all this safety for your own good may lead next. Lord knows, we've had enough from the government in recent years. Do you feel safer knowing your phone calls might be monitored?

But this is about nets and how much safety is enough -- or too much.

Idle thought: If they really want to protect people, maybe they should put up nets protecting the gallery when Tiger Woods hits a tee shot. That thing could go anywhere.....

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